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How Do X-rays Work?

X-rays were discovered by accident in 1895. They transformed the medical world’s ability to diagnose and treat a wide variety of medical conditions and are still celebrated as a valuable diagnostic tool. In 1896, the first radiology department was formed in a Glasgow hospital. Their initial X-ray attempts included pictures of an adult with a kidney stone and another of a child’s throat with a penny lodged in it.

X-rays continue to be a mainstay of medical diagnosis and treatment, but improvements in technology over the last 120+ years make them a safer diagnostic tool that produces a much clearer image today than in 1895. And for your convenience, Everest Urgent Care offers on-site X-ray services that can save you the hassle of a trip to the hospital’s radiology department.

The basics of X-rays

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation (light waves) that produce enough energy to pass painlessly through most objects, including your body. Images of structures within the body show up as shadows that are obtained when you’re positioned between an X-ray source and an X-ray detector such as photographic film.

Structures within your body absorb X-rays at varying levels. The calcium in bones, for instance, readily absorbs X-rays. This makes bones show up brightly white on a photographic image while lungs and other soft tissue structures are pictured in varying shades of gray.

After your X-rays are obtained and produced, most often digitally these days, your Everest Urgent Care provider analyzes these images to look for abnormalities, such as a dark line across your tibia (lower leg bone) that may indicate a fracture, or a foreign object, such as a penny, making its way through your intestines.

The safety of X-rays

When performed correctly, the benefits of X-rays generally far outweigh the risks. They do produce a form of ionizing radiation which can harm living tissue if used too frequently. However, Harvard Medical School, citing a study by the American College of Radiology, notes you would have to undergo 10,000 chest X-rays in a lifetime to reach harmful limits. You could experience 25,000 airport scans yearly before worrying about radiation exposure. Dental X-rays produce even lower amounts of radiation than chest X-rays. Still, practitioners use lead aprons to cover the parts of your body not being photographed as a precautionary measure — X-rays cannot penetrate lead.

Conditions that may require an X-ray

The possibility of broken bones may be the most frequent and obvious reason for obtaining a diagnostic X-ray. Your doctor may believe the symptoms you’re presenting, and the appearance of your injury, indicate a bone fracture. However, identifying the severity of the break and its precise location is vital to designing a successful treatment plan.

The physicians at Everest Urgent Care may also recommend X-rays to identify:

Sometimes a work physical or immigration physical requires a chest X-ray to better assess your respiratory health and monitor for certain infectious diseases.

At Everest Urgent Care, X-rays are read (analyzed) onsite by our qualified providers. This means we can usually diagnose and treat your condition quickly and spare you the frustration and discomfort of traveling to several different locations before starting treatment.

If you’re injured or feel too sick to wait hours at a hospital, Everest Urgent Care welcomes walk-ins. We also schedule appointments for certain services, such as DOT physicals. See us today for a full range of medical services. 

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