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X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light.

  • An x-ray machine sends individual x-ray particles through the body. The images are recorded on a computer or film.
  • Structures that are dense (such as bone) will block most of the x-ray particles, and will appear white.
    Metal and contrast media (special dye used to highlight areas of the body) will also appear white.
  • Structures containing air will be black, and muscle, fat, and fluid will appear as shades of gray.

How long does a x-ray take to complete?

The average x-ray exam usually takes no more than 10 to 15 minutes per part (e.g., cervical spine, knee, or chest x-ray).

What should I expect during an x-ray?

The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider’s office. How you are positioned depends on the type of x-ray being done. Several different x-ray views may be needed.

You need to stay still when you are having an x-ray. Motion can cause blurry images. You may be asked to hold your breath or not move for a second or two when the image is being taken.

Before the x-ray, tell your health care team if you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or if you have an IUD inserted.

Metal can cause unclear images. You will need to remove all jewelry and you may need to wear a hospital gown.

X-rays are painless, but some body positions needed during an x-ray may be uncomfortable for a short time.

Click HERE to learn more about x-rays.


Fluoroscopy uses rapid sequence x-ray like a video to examine parts of the body “real-time” while performing procedures or administering contrast material such as barium.

Typical fluoroscopic studies:

  • Lumbar puncture:  evaluation of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and intracranial pressure
  • Myelography:  augmented evaluation of the CSF spaces when MRI cannot be performed
  • Joint arthrography:  augmented MRI or CT evaluation of the joints
  • Barium Swallow or Esophagram:  evaluation of swallowing function and anatomy
  • Upper GI:  evaluation of the esophagus and stomach
  • Barium Enema: evaluation of the colon.