Diagnostic X-Ray

Diagnostic X-Ray

What Is a Diagnostic X-Ray Procedure?

Diagnostic X-ray procedures use radiation in the form of X-rays to help diagnose disease and injury. Procedures vary, and the equipment and steps involved differ depending on the procedure and part of the body being studied. All X-ray procedures share a common goal: to help give health-care providers important information about what's going on inside the body.

Diagnostic X-Ray Procedures Are Used to Study:

  • The Head — tumors, cysts or circulation in the brain.
  • The Teeth — cavities, fractures and the location of teeth.
  • The Digestive System — problems in the throat, stomach, intestines, colon and rectum.
  • Foreign Bodies — their exact location, size and type (coins, buttons, etc.)
  • Urinary System — problems in the kidneys, ureters and bladder.
  • Bones and Joints — fractures, dislocations, arthritis and evidence of healing.
  • The Chest — circulation and diseases of the heart and lungs.

    Some Common X-Ray Methods:


    Flouroscopy is used to observe certain body structures at work. X-rays passing through the body are observed on a TV monitor.


    Mammogram uses a special X-ray machine to produce images of breast tissue. It's an important way to help detect breast cancer and other breast conditions early- when they are most treatable.

    Use of a Contrast Medium

    Use of a Contrast Medium can help make soft tissue visible. The most common contrast media are air, barium sulfate and organic iodine compounds. Contrast media are introduced into the body orally, or by injection or enema.

    Some Common X-Ray Procedures:

  • Angiogram — A contrast medium is injected into blood vessels to help show blood flow in the heart, lungs, kidneys or brain. An angiogram may show the condition of the blood vessels, a blockage or an active bleeding site. A computer may be used to enhance the images.
  • Arthrogram — a contrast medium is injected into a joint (usually a knee or shoulder) to detect injury or disease.
  • Upper GI Series — the upper part of the gastrointestinal system (pharynx, esophagus, stomach and part of the small intestine) is studied. The patient is given a "barium shake" to drink for the common contrast medium.
  • Lower GI Series (Barium Enema) — The colon and rectum are pictured, using a barium enema. This usually requires special dietary changes 2-3 days before the procedure.
  • Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP) or Urogram — The kidneys, ureters and bladder are observed when a contrast medium is injected into a vein. Special dietary preparation is usually necessary.

    What Happens to the X-Ray Pictures Afterward?

    Generally, they are kept by the hospital as part of your permanent record. Patients may review them with their health-care provider following the procedure.