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Single Joint or Extremity X-Ray FAQs

An X-ray is a form of diagnostic imaging that uses a small dose of ionizing radiation, which passes harmlessly through your body, to produce a clear image of the structures inside your body. X-rays are adept at giving doctors an inside look at your bones and teeth.

Doctors use X-ray imaging to diagnose ailments like broken bones, joint sprains, dislocations, arthritis. X-rays play a significant role in diagnosing injury, and musculoskeletal trauma.

X-rays on the joints and extremities are used to diagnose injuries such as sprains, fractures, and breaks. Diagnostic imaging can also help detect and diagnose conditions such as cancer, infections, bone spurs, arthritis, and birth defects.

If you are experiencing persistent discomfort in a part of the musculoskeletal system (bones and muscles), your doctor may order an X-ray to identify and diagnose the cause of the problem.

If you are - or think you may be - pregnant, tell your doctor before undergoing an X-ray scan. Radiation can be harmful to developing fetuses and should be avoided. If you require an X-ray scan of an extremity, the radiology clinic may be able to provide certain precautionary measures to keep the fetus safe.

While ionizing radiation does have the potential to harm living tissue, the amount of radiation used in X-rays is generally far too small to have any adverse effects. A chest X-ray, for example, gives out a radiation dose similar to what you're naturally exposed to from the environment in a 10 day period.

There are a few safety measures you'll want to keep in mind, though. For instance, always be sure to tell the technologist or doctor if you're pregnant or think you may be pregnant. If your child needs an x-ray, you may also want to ask if the X-ray machine settings have been adjusted for children, as children have a higher sensitivity to radiation. Also, keep in mind that risk does increase as the number of exposures adds up over the course of a lifetime. Still, most healthcare providers agree that the diagnostic benefits of X-ray scans significantly outweigh the risks.

Little to no preparation is needed for an extremity X-ray. Because the area being scanned is primarily bone and muscle, you do not need to fast before the imaging session.

X-rays are simple, painless procedures. You will be asked to remove some of your clothing and wear a gown during the exam. You will also be asked to remove all jewelry, eyeglasses, removable dental appliances, and any metal that may interfere with the reading.

Depending on the area of the body being scanned, you will be asked to lie down, sit, or stand. Areas that are not being scanned may be covered with a lead apron to reduce radiation exposure.

As the imaging is being done, your doctor may ask you to change positions or rotate your body for different positions. This gives doctors several angles of imaging to examine. It is important that you hold the extremity or joint still as the image is being taken. Moving body parts can lead to a blurry image. If your doctor needs to retake an image, they will usually let you know.

You may experience some discomfort while moving an injured extremity or joint. If you do, talk to the doctor overseeing the imaging. While some discomfort is to be expected, sharp pain during an X-ray can indicate that you risk injuring the area further.

After the imaging is complete, you will be able to resume your daily activities as normal. No sedation is needed for these scans, so you do not need to wait at the clinic for monitoring.

Your doctor will review the images taken during the scan to identify and diagnose any injuries, conditions, or trauma in the area. Depending on the results, you may be asked to return to the clinic for follow-up testing or an appointment to discuss treatment options. In most cases, results from an X-ray scan will be reported to you within 1-3 business days of your scan.

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