One of the types of radiologic imaging you may be most familiar with is the X-ray, especially if you’ve had one. X-rays are a type of imaging technique that we use to diagnose injuries or issues in the bones so that your doctor can plan a course of treatment. At OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine, where I work, we see mostly shoulders and knees, but you can have X-rays anywhere on the body. Physicians have their own protocols and have already told us what area will need to be radiographed, but we also take into consideration any injuries or surgeries, or if the patient is post-operative.
Once we know what area will be X-rayed, we take images of and look at a few different angles of that body part. For example, if we are looking at the knee we will look at a straight-on view as well as a side view, and look for fractures or loose bodies. (Loose bodies may include bone that avulsed or spurs that break off).
Questions are common when patients come in for X-ray, so if it’s something you’ve wondered odds are we’ve been asked before. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible so it’s always fine to ask us anything. Here are some of the most frequent questions asked by patients:
Why can’t I use my X-rays from another practice?
Our doctors like to treat you as though you have never been seen for the injury before. Orthopedics is a specialty office so there are some different views we may need to see from the original X-ray you had taken elsewhere (however, do bring your other X-ray to your appointment, or call the office to have it sent to us). There are certain special views we’ll need to see to diagnose and plan a course of treatment for you so we may need to even possibly incorporate weight-bearing X-rays.
Can radiation hurt me?
Radiation accumulates in your body over a very long time and is not something that a single X-ray will impact. You actually get radiation from many places in the environment and an X-ray is less radiation than you would get from a plane ride or a cell phone (that said, you wouldn’t want to get an X-ray every day). Our equipment at OrthoCarolina is so technologically advanced that it significantly reduces radiation emission.
What is the heavy blue apron I wear during an X-ray?
People actually ask this question a lot. There is a lead shield for the lap and abdomen area, and the lead actually helps to block the radiation. It helps protect your most sensitive and reproductive organs from the X-ray. These organs are not as protected as organs like the heart and lungs are by the ribs. Some people are concerned with the thyroid and we have a shield that can wrap around the neck. For those who are very concerned about radiation, if requested we can shield any area that will not block the area of the body we are taking an X-ray of.
Can I get additional X-rays for other body parts if I ask?
Sometimes people do ask for other body parts to have an X-ray because they have pain there or they are just curious. X-rays are actually like prescriptions. We can only take pictures of what a doctor has requested, so we can’t X-ray any body part other than what was ordered.
What’s the difference between MRI and X-ray?
These are two completely different studies. MRI is magnetic resonance imaging and will show soft tissue, tendon, and ligament damage. X-rays show more bone and joint space and issues with abnormalities in the bone. The two in combination helps the doctor come up with the best prognosis and diagnosis.
Can I have a copy of my X-ray?
Yes, but please don’t take a photo of your X-ray on the screen in the room. Even though it may be your X-ray it’s technically a HIPPA (patient privacy law) violation to do so. The chart belongs to the facility. But we are always happy to print copies of your X-rays on paper for you at no charge, or we can burn them to a disk.
For acute orthopedic injuries after scheduled clinic and urgent care hours, please utilize the HURT! App, in partnership with OrthoCarolina, for fast free access to orthopedic advice with a response time of ~4 minutes. Download here.