X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, similar to visible light. Unlike light, however, x-rays have higher energy and can pass through most objects, including the body. Medical x-rays are used to generate images of tissues and structures inside the body.
When X-rays are used
X-rays can be used to examine most areas of the body. They're mainly used to look at the bones and joints, although they're sometimes used to detect problems affecting soft tissue, such as internal organs.
Problems that may be detected during an X-ray include:
- bone fractures and breaks
- scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- non-cancerous and cancerous bone tumours
- lung problems, such as pneumonia and lung cancer
- dysphagia (swallowing problems)
- heart problems, such as heart failure
- breast cancer
X-rays can also be used to guide doctors or surgeons during certain procedures. For example, during a coronary angioplasty – a procedure to widen narrowed arteries near the heart – X-rays can be used to help guide a catheter (a long, thin, flexible tube) along one of your arteries.