What is Bone Radiography?
Radiography, known to most people as x-ray, is the oldest and most frequently used form of medical imaging. For nearly a century, diagnostic images have been created by passing small, highly controlled amounts of radiation through the human body, capturing the resulting shadows and reflections on a photographic plate.
X-ray imaging is the fastest and easiest way for a physician to view and assess broken bones, cracked skulls and injured backbones.
At least two films are taken of a bone, and often three films if the problem is around a joint (knee, elbow, or wrist). X-rays also play a key role in orthopedic surgery and the treatment of sports injuries. X-ray is useful in detecting more advanced forms of cancer in bones. Very early cancer findings require other methods.
Radiologists have developed alternative imaging methods that do not rely on radiation, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). However, because x-ray was the first imaging modality, many people (and medical imaging professionals) continue to use the term "radiology" to include all types of imaging. Strictly speaking, though, radiology refers to the use of x-rays.
One century ago, Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen discovered the X-ray (called that because X meant they didn't know what it was) which began the use of energy to visualize medical problems in patients. X-rays themselves (a form of energy) are not visible with the eye. Another method or material must be used to convert the information to a visible or useable form. X-rays typically use film or TV screens to make the structures penetrated by x-rays visible.
X-rays are used in a variety of ways to make regular pictures, angiograms (study of blood vessels), or CT scans. Other forms of energy such as ultrasound magnetic waves, and isotopes are used to also make pictures.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
Probably the most common use of bone radiographs is to assist the physician in identifying and treating fractures. X-ray images of the skull, spine, joints, and extremities are performed every minute of every day in hospital emergency rooms, sports medicine centers, orthopedic clinics, and physician offices. Images of the injury can show even very fine hairline fractures or chips, while images produced after treatment ensure that a fracture has been properly aligned and stabilized for healing. Bone x-rays are an essential tool in orthopedic surgery, such as spinal repair, joint replacements, or fracture reductions. X-ray images can be used to diagnose and monitor the progression of degenerative diseases such as arthritis. They also play an important role in the detection and diagnosis of cancer, although usually computed tomography (CT) or MRI is better at defining the extent and the nature of a suspected cancer. On regular x-rays severe osteoporosis is visible, but bone density determination detects early loss of bone density. Bone density determination is usually done on special equipment.
How should I prepare for the procedure?
There is no special preparation required for most bone radiographs. Once you arrive, you may be asked to change into a gown before your examination. You will also be asked to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, and any metal objects that could obscure the images, since those show up on x-rays and may block the bones. Women should always inform their doctor or x-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.
What does the equipment look like?
Radiograpy equipment consists of a large, flat table with a drawer that holds an x-ray film cassette into which a film is placed. Suspended above the table is an apparatus that holds the x-ray tube which can be moved over the body to direct the x-ray.