Every year, health care providers across the United States order X-rays to diagnose illness and injury in millions of Americans. Despite their prevalence, X-rays are misunderstood and often perceived as dangerous because of the radiation used to create the images. It doesn’t help that you also have to wear a big, heavy lead apron, and the technician hurries out of the room before taking the X-ay.
Our team at American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, provides in-house digital X-rays. We want to answer a few common questions to help you understand X-rays and their safety.
Are X-rays safe?
First thing first — yes, X-rays are safe. We’re exposed to background radiation all day, every day. In most cases, the radiation comes from radon gas in your home, although your location also affects the amount of radiation you’re exposed to daily.
However, in most environments, the amount of daily exposure is so tiny that it has no impact on your health. A traditional chest X-ray, for example, is only the equivalent of 2.4 days of normal exposure. We use the protective aprons as a precaution. While X-rays are safe, we aim to limit your exposure to unnecessary radiation.
Here at American River Urgent Care, we use state-of-the-art digital X-rays, which use approximately 80% less radiation than a traditional X-ray, decreasing the associated risks even more.
How do X-rays work?
When you have an X-ray, you stand or lie between the X-ray source and detector. The X-ray source sends electromagnetic radiation through your body and into the sensor, which creates the image of your bones and other internal structures.
X-rays can create images of the inside of your body because your various tissues absorb different amounts of radiation as the beam passes through your body. Your bones absorb most of the energy while your air-filled lungs absorb almost nothing.
The X-ray image is like a silhouette. Since your bones absorb the radiation and block it from passing through, the detector picks up the radiation that goes past your bones or makes it through other organs.
Why would I need an X-ray?
We use X-rays to diagnose various injuries and illnesses, including:
- Broken bones
- Sprains and soft tissue tears
- Bowel blockages
- Lung problems like pneumonia
- Heart conditions
- Abnormal masses
- Foreign objects
You might know you have an injury, such as a potential sprained ankle from an accident while playing a sport. Or you might have other symptoms that lead us to order an X-ray to gather more information about your condition.
What happens during an X-ray?
X-rays are quick and painless. Chances are we’ll spend more time positioning you in front of the machine than the seconds we need to take the X-ray.
Generally, we position you between the X-ray source and detector, provide a lead apron to block the radiation from reaching other parts of your body, then touch a button to take the picture. Our digital equipment provides immediate images for our physicians to study.
If you think you have an injury or another condition that requires a diagnostic X-ray, contact us today. You can make an appointment by calling our office or booking online. We also accept walk-ins.