UI Hospitals and Clinics

Bone x-ray

Definition

A bone x-ray may detect fractures, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the bone.

Alternative Names

X-ray - bone

How the test is performed

The test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office by an x-ray technician. You will position the bone to be x-rayed on the table, pictures are then taken, and the bone is repositioned, if necessary, for different views.

How to prepare for the test

Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. You must remove all jewelry.

How the test will feel

The x-rays themselves are painless. However, repositioning the bone may be uncomfortable.

Why the test is performed

A bone x-ray is used to detect fractures, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the bone.

Normal Values

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal findings include fractures, bone tumors, degenerative bone conditions, and osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone caused by an infection).

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) II
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Osgood-Schlatter disease
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta
  • Osteomalacia
  • Paget's disease
  • Primary hyperparathyroidism
  • Rickets

What the risks are

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray. A protective shield may be worn over areas not being scanned.

Special considerations

Photo

Skeleton Skeletal spine Osteogenic sarcoma - X-ray

References

Clement J. Basic imaging techniques in the adult. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 13, section A.

Clement J. Imaging consideration in the skeletally immature patient. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 13, section B.

Renner JB. Conventional radiography in musculoskeletal imaging. Radiol Clin North Am. 2009 May;47(3):357-72.

Revision

Last reviewed 5/1/2011 by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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