X-Ray

X-Ray

X-Ray

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. If x-rays traveling through the body also pass through an x-ray detector on the other side of the patient, an image will be formed that represents the “shadows” formed by the objects inside the body.

How Do X-rays Work?

One type of x-ray detector is photographic film, but many other types of detectors are used to produce digital images. The x-ray images that result from this process are called radiographs.

X-Ray

When are medical x-rays used?

Listed below are examples of examinations and procedures that use x-ray technology to either diagnose or treat disease:

a) X-ray radiography

Detects bone fractures, certain tumors, and other abnormal masses, pneumonia, some types of injuries, calcifications, foreign objects, dental problems, etc.

b) Mammography

A radiograph of the breast that is used for cancer detection and diagnosis. Tumors tend to appear as regular or irregular-shaped masses that are somewhat brighter than the background on the radiograph (i.e., whiter on a black background or blacker on a white background). Mammograms can also detect tiny bits of calcium, called microcalcifications, which show up as very bright specks on a mammogram. While usually benign, microcalcifications may occasionally indicate the presence of a specific type of cancer.

c) CT (computed tomography)

Combines traditional x-ray technology with computer processing to generate a series of cross-sectional images of the body that can later be combined to form a three-dimensional x-ray image. CT images are more detailed than plain radiographs and give doctors the ability to view structures within the body from many different angles.

d) Fluoroscopy

Uses x-rays and a fluorescent screen to obtain real-time images of movement within the body or to view diagnostic processes, such as following the path of an injected or swallowed contrast agent. For example, fluoroscopy is used to view the movement of the beating heart, and, with the aid of radiographic contrast agents, to view blood flow to the heart muscle as well as through blood vessels and organs. This technology is also used with a radiographic contrast agent to guide an internally threaded catheter during cardiac angioplasty, which is a minimally invasive procedure for opening clogged arteries that supply blood to the heart.

e) Radiation therapy in cancer treatment

X-rays and other types of high-energy radiation can be used to destroy cancerous tumors and cells by damaging their DNA. The radiation dose used for treating cancer is much higher than the radiation dose used for diagnostic imaging. Therapeutic radiation can come from a machine outside of the body or from a radioactive material that is placed in the body, inside or near tumor cells, or injected into the bloodstream.

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