What is an x-ray?

X-rays use a special type of radiation to take pictures of bones and some parts inside the body, including the lungs. You will be asked to lie on a bed or sit down between the x-ray tube and a receiving plate which makes the picture.


A plain x-ray is used to look at bones for:

  • Fractures
  • Dislocated joints
  • Fluid around bones and joints
  • Infection
  • Bone growths
  • Bone diseases

Benefits of x-rays

  • Painless, fast and easy
  • No radiation is left in your body after the x-ray is finished

Risks of x-rays

Your doctor knows the risks of having an x-ray. Your doctor will consider the risks before recommending you to have an x-ray. Possible risks are:

  • Not recommended for pregnant women
  • Very small chance you could develop cancer in the long term from the radiation.


  • Bring your referral letter or request form and all x-rays taken within the last 2 years with you
  • Leave the x-rays with the radiology staff as the doctor may need to look at them. The radiology staff will tell you when these are ready to be picked up
  • Leave all jewellery and valuables at home

Just before the x-ray

  • There is no special preparation for x-rays
  • You may be given a gown to wear
  • You may be asked to remove any metal objects

Important to tell your doctor before the x-ray

  • If you are or may be pregnant
  • If you have difficulty taking a deep breath and holding your breath

What happens during an x-ray?

X-ray staff will ask you to stand, sit or lie down depending on which part of the body is being x-rayed. Tell the x-ray staff if you have difficulty standing or sitting.

X-ray staff may place a protective shield over the parts of your body not being x-rayed, or you may be asked to wear a protective apron.

Once you are ready, the x-ray staff will go behind a screen or into the next room to start the x-ray machine. They will ask you to be still, and may ask you to take a deep breath and hold your breath during the x-rays.

When your x-ray is finished you will be asked to wait while the x-ray staff check the pictures, as you may need another x-ray.


The x-ray usually takes about 15 minutes including time taken to get ready.