Dr Amit Chakraborty, June 2023
The role of X rays in diagnostic imaging
X-rays are one of the most commonly used imaging techniques in modern medicine. They allow doctors to see inside a patient’s body without the need for invasive procedures, making them a valuable tool in diagnosing a wide range of medical conditions. In this article, we will explore how x-rays work and their role in diagnosing medical conditions.
X-rays were first discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, who received the first Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery. X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, which means they have the ability to penetrate solid objects and produce images of the inside of the body. When an x-ray beam passes through the body, parts of the body that are denser or thicker, such as bones, organs, or foreign objects will absorb the rays differently, creating an image that can be captured by an x-ray device.
X-rays are used in diagnosing a wide range of medical conditions because they can create images of the inside of the body in real-time. The most common use of x-rays is to detect and diagnose bone fractures, but they can also be used to identify infections, tumours, lung problems, and even foreign objects that have been ingested or inserted into the body.
X-rays are performed by trained technicians called radiographers, and typically involve the patient lying down on a table while the x-ray machine is positioned above or beside them. To get the best image possible, the technician may ask the patient to move into different positions or hold their breath for a short period. To minimise radiation exposure, the technician will also use protective shields to cover parts of the body that are not being imaged.
Radiation, when administered within appropriate limits and under controlled conditions, is generally considered non-lethal to individuals.
While x-rays are a useful diagnostic tool, they do have limitations. They are mainly used to image dense tissues, such as bones, and are less useful for soft tissue imaging, such as organs and muscles.
In recent years, new imaging technologies like MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound have become popular, as these techniques offer more detailed images of the body’s soft tissues. However, x-rays remain an important diagnostic tool for certain medical conditions, especially bone fractures and other skeletal injuries. Moreover, x-rays are often faster and less expensive than other types of imaging, making them more accessible in emergency situations or in low-resource settings.
In conclusion, x-rays are an essential diagnostic tool in modern medicine, allowing doctors to see inside the body without the need for invasive procedures. While they have limitations, they remain an important diagnostic tool in diagnosing a wide range of medical conditions, especially for bone fractures and skeletal injuries. If you have concerns about radiation exposure or have a history of radiation sensitivity, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about the potential risks and benefits of using x-rays for diagnostic imaging.