General Radiography (X-ray)
At Northwestern Medicine Diagnostic Imaging, X-rays help physicians see inside your body.
Using state-of-the-art technology, skilled imaging technologists create detailed pictures of your internal anatomy to help them pinpoint problems and make your treatment more precise. A traditional X-ray exam uses tiny amounts of radiation to create still pictures of the human body. Although primarily used to visualize bones, including the spine and skull, X-ray is also useful for exams of soft tissues. X-ray is also used to guide access to joints during procedures.
Putting your needs and safety first, Northwestern Medicine Diagnostic Imaging follows “as low as is reasonably achievable” (ALARA) guidelines for minimizing radiation exposure.
While the field of imaging has grown dramatically over the years, X-rays are still the most common type of radiology exam. X-rays use external radiation to make clear pictures of bones, organs and other areas inside your body to help physicians diagnose and monitor health conditions.
X-ray technology is used in many types of diagnostic procedures, such as arteriograms, computed tomography (CT) scans and fluoroscopy. Radiation during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. Always tell your radiologist or physician if you suspect you may be pregnant.
How images are formed
X-rays pass through your body structures and onto specially treated plates (similar to camera film) or digital media, and a "negative" type picture is made. The more solid a structure is, the more white it appears on the film.
When you have an X-ray exam, different parts of your body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. The soft tissues in your body (such as blood, skin, fat and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film or digital media.
A bone or a tumor, which is denser than the soft tissues, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray film. At a break in a bone, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area and appears as a dark line within the white bone.
Northwestern Medicine Diagnostic Imaging offers a complete range of adult and pediatric X-ray exams to meet your family’s imaging needs.
- General radiography
- Upper gastrointestinal (UGI)
- Lower gastrointestinal (LGI)
- Chest X-ray
Other uses of X-ray include:
- Detecting structural problems within your inner ear
- Checking spinal alignment to make sure that spinal fixation hardware is not loose or broken
- Eliminating arthritis as a cause for neuromuscular disorders
- Helping to diagnose:
If you need an X-ray, Northwestern Medicine Diagnostic Imaging brings you excellence in imaging at many locations across Chicagoland. Find a location to schedule an X-ray below.