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What Are X-Rays? The Powerful Waves

X rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, as is visible light, but with some different characteristics.

The important difference is that X rays can penetrate or pass through the human body and produce shadow-like images of structures such as bones, some of the organs, and signs of disease and injury.

When the body undergoes X-rays, different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. The soft tissues in the body (such as blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film or digital media.

A bone or a tumor, which is more dense than soft tissue, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray. When a break in a bone has occurred, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line in the white bone.

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This beam travels through the air, comes into contact with our body tissues, and produces an image on a metal film. Soft tissue, such as skin and organs, cannot absorb the high-energy rays, and the beam passes through them. Dense materials inside our bodies, like bones, absorb the radiation.

How are X-rays performed?

X-rays can be performed on an outpatient basis, or as part of inpatient care.

Although each facility may have specific protocols in place, generally, an X-ray procedure follows this process:

  1. The patient will be asked to remove any clothing or jewelry which might interfere with the exposure of the body area to be examined. The patient will be given a gown to wear if clothing must be removed.

  2. The patient is positioned on an X-ray table that carefully positions the part of the body that is to be X-rayed--between the X-ray machine and a cassette containing the X-ray film or specialized image plate. Some examinations may be performed with the patient in a sitting or standing position.

  3. Body parts not being imaged may be covered with a lead apron (shield) to avoid exposure to the X-rays.

  4. The X-ray beam will be aimed at the area to be imaged.

  5. The patient must be very still or the image will be blurred.

  6. The technologist will step behind a protective window and the image is taken.

  7. Depending on the body part under study, various X-rays may be taken at different angles, such as the front and side view during a chest X-ray.

Common FAQ’S On X-Ray’s!

1) Who invented the first X ray?

Yet, despite their versatility, the invention of the X-ray wasn’t intentional. The scientific and medical community will forever be indebted to an accidental discovery made by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895.

2) When was the first X ray machine used?

History. X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen (1845-1923) who was a Professor at Wuerzburg University in Germany. Working with a cathode-ray tube in his laboratory, Roentgen observed a fluorescent glow of crystals on a table near his tube.

3) What is the X ray machine?

Description: X-ray, or radiography, is the oldest and most common form of medical imaging. An X-ray machine produces a controlled beam of radiation, which is used to create an image of the inside of your body. … Dense tissue, such as bone, blocks most of the radiation and appears white on the film.

4) How do X rays get absorbed?

Soft tissue absorbs few rays, but the calcium in bones absorbs more, so it shows up white in x-rays. Lungs are full of air, which does not absorb the rays at all, so they appear black. As the nucleus of a radioactive atom decays, three different types of radiation are produced: alpha, beta and gamma.

5) Why is lead used to block radiation?

Lead can effectively attenuate certain kinds of radiation because of its high density and high atomic number; principally, it is effective at stopping gamma rays and x-rays.

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6) Why is it called an X ray?

Roentgen called it “X” to indicate it was an unknown type of radiation. The name stuck, although (over Roentgen’s objections), many of his colleagues suggested calling them Roentgen rays. They are still occasionally referred to as Roentgen rays in German-speaking countries.

7) What radiography is all about?

Radiography is an imaging technique that uses electromagnetic radiation other than visible light, specifically X-rays, to view the internal structure of a non-uniformly composed and opaque object (i.e. a non-transparent object of varying density and composition) such as the human body.

8) What can block radiation?

Despite their ability to penetrate other materials, in general, neither gamma rays nor x-rays have the ability to make anything radioactive. Several feet of concrete or a few inches of dense material (such as lead) are able to block these types of radiation.


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