X-Rays Animation

Radiographs Diagnose Back Pain and Neck Pain

An x-ray, also called a radiograph or radiography, is a common diagnostic test that, in short, creates an image of the inside of your body. A type of electromagnetic radiation is passed through the body's tissues to generate digital images that can be printed onto a sheet of radiographic film. Results from an x-ray examination can provide your doctor with additional information that can help confirm a diagnosis. X-rays can detect a wide range of disorders, including pneumonia and scoliosis.

This video animation provides you with an overview of the x-ray process. You will learn about:

  • The parts of an x-ray machine: An x-ray machine is made up of several parts, including a cathode (which, releases electrons), an x-ray tube (a vacuum tube that moves the electrons along), and an anode (a disc on the opposite end of the x-ray tube often made of the metal tungsten, which attracts the electrons). When the electrons reach the tungsten, they release photons, which are then filtered into an x-ray beam.
  • How x-rays are taken: When you arrive for an x-ray, your doctor or x-ray technician will ask you to remove any metal objects and jewelry from your body. You may need an injection of a contrast substance, which helps make the x-rays clearer. You will then be situated between a radiographic film and the x-ray machine so that the rays can pass through your body and onto the film.
  • Why x-rays look the way they do: The images on an x-ray relate to the differing amounts of the x-ray beams that your body parts are able to absorb. High calcium levels in the bones make them absorb a high amount of the beams, causing bones to appear white on the radiograph. On the other hand, fat and soft tissues in the body absorb less of the x-rays, giving them a gray color. Because air absorbs the least amount of x-rays, your lungs appear black on the film.

Chest X-rayHigh levels of calcium in the bones make them appear white on an x-ray. The lungs appear darker because they are soft tissues that are air-filled.X-rays can be performed in your doctor’s office, a hospital, or at specialized imaging centers. Before you have an x-ray, you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant, if you have any allergies to iodine or other contrast substances, or if you have any metal implants in your body (such as an artificial hip or knee, or a pacemaker).

X-rays are a useful tool for helping your doctor identify the causes of your back and neck pain. Radiographic studies are often the first imaging test a spine specialist requests to diagnose many different spinal disorders from spinal stenosis to spondylolisthesis. X-rays can help speed up your diagnosis—and get you on the track to recovery.

Updated on: 05/08/18
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