An x-ray is a medical imaging technique that uses a small amount of radiation to create images of the inside of your body.
These images allow your healthcare provider to visualise bones, organs, and other structures, which can help them to diagnose and monitor various medical conditions. X-rays are commonly used to identify fractures (link to service page), infections, tumours and abnormalities in the lungs, chest, abdomen, and skeletal system.
How do x-rays work?
During an x-ray, you will be positioned between a machine that emits x-rays and a special film or detector that captures the x-ray images. When these x-rays pass through your body, they interact with the tissues and structures inside you and create an image on the film or detector.
Different tissues will absorb the x-rays to varying degrees. Dense structures such as bones, absorb more of the x-rays, which will appear white in the resulting image. Softer tissues, such as muscles and organs, allow more x-rays to pass through, which results in varying shades of grey. Air-filled spaces, such as your lungs, allow most of the x-rays to pass through, these will appear black on the image.
A special film or detector captures the x-rays that pass through your body, which creates an image. This image provides your healthcare provider with valuable information about the internal structures of your body, helping them to identify fractures, infections, tumours and other abnormalities. X-rays are widely used due to their ability to provide quick and relatively low-cost imaging results.
Benefitsof x-ray scans
Quick and efficient
Accurate in diagnosing a plethora of medical issues
Assess dental health
Monitor medical treatments
What conditions can x-ray scans diagnose?
X-rays can be used to diagnose the following conditions:
Fractures: fractures can be diagnosed using x-rays where your orthopaedist will be able to observe the severity of your injury.
Bone and joint disorders/injuries: bone and joint disorders and injuries can be observed using x-rays.
Other medical conditions: such as lung conditions, chest abnormalities, digestive issues, and soft tissue injuries can be observed using x-rays.
What results can I expect?
After an x-ray, you can expect the following results:
Imaging evaluation: the x-ray images will be evaluated by a radiologist or a healthcare provider specialised in radiology. They will interpret the images to assess any abnormalities or conditions present in the area that was imaged.
Diagnosis: based on the evaluation of the x-ray images, your healthcare provider will provide a diagnosis or preliminary findings regarding the condition being investigated. They will explain the results to you, discussing any significant findings.
Treatment planning: if an abnormality or condition is identified, your healthcare provider will discuss the appropriate treatment options with you. They will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs, which may include medications, therapies, or further diagnostic tests.
Progress monitoring: x-rays may be used for monitoring the progress of certain conditions or the healing of fractures. Subsequent x-rays may be recommended at specific intervals to assess the effectiveness of your treatment or track changes over time.
Referral or consultation: in some cases, if the x-ray reveals complex or specialised findings, you may be referred to a specialist or recommended for further consultations to explore specific treatment options or interventions.
Results will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the issue and your overall health. Your orthopaedist can give you a better idea of what to expect based on your individual needs and circumstances.
How many x-ray scans are needed?
The number of x-ray scans needed depends on several factors, including the specific medical condition being evaluated and the recommendations of your healthcare provider. In many cases, a single x-ray scan may be sufficient to obtain the necessary information for diagnosis and treatment planning. However, there may be instances where multiple x-ray scans are required. The decisions on the number of scans are made by your healthcare provider based on factors such as the complexity of your condition, the need for monitoring, or follow-up and your response to the initial treatment.
Your healthcare provider will assess your individual case and determine the appropriate number of x-ray scans needed to provide a comprehensive evaluation and guide your treatment plan effectively. It is important to discuss any concerns or questions you have about the number of x-ray scans with your healthcare provider.
Your orthopaedist will be able to provide you with a bespoke treatment plan, tailored to your needs and requirements.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.