X-ray is a safe and painless procedure often used to produce images of the inside of the body.
It is a very effective way of looking at fractured bones, such as a broken arm or wrist.
How X-rays work
X-rays are a type of radiation. Light and X-rays are similar sources of energy. However, light has a much lower frequency than X-rays and is absorbed by your skin. X-rays have a higher frequency and pass through the human body.
As X-rays pass through the body, energy particles in them (called photons) are absorbed at different rates. This pattern shows up on the X-ray images.
The parts of your body that are made up of dense material, such as your bones, show up as clear white areas on an X-ray image.
The parts of your body that are made of softer material, such as your heart and lungs, show up as darker areas.
Having an X-ray
X-rays are carried out by radiographers who are healthcare professionals trained to use imaging technology, including X-ray machines, computerised tomography (CT) scanners and ultrasound scanners.
During an X-ray you will be asked to lie on a table or stand against a flat surface so that the part of your body being examined is positioned between the X-ray machine and a photographic plate.
The X-ray will last for a fraction of a second. As the X-rays hit the photographic plate, the plate captures a snapshot of the image.
The resulting image will be transferred to a computer so it can be studied on a screen and printed out if necessary.
Exposure to high levels of radiation can be very harmful. However, the X-rays used for medical purposes are safe because the dose of radiation is very small.