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How to Get Ready for an X-ray

Updated on March 24, 2015
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Depending on the type of X-ray you need, you might have received special instructions prior to your appointment. If you have no instructions or are attending a 'walk in' clinic where no appointment is necessary, there are some guidelines you can follow to prepare for your X-ray. What follows is a rough guide to the more common X-ray procedures including:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Abdomen
  • Mammograms
  • Pelvis and hips
  • Knees and lower legs
  • Hands and feet
  • Skull and face
  • Other

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray is one of the most common X-rays, and looks at your upper-body from the bases of your lungs all the way to the top of your shoulders. For improved image quality, and therefore diagnostic usability, you will generally face away from the X-ray machine and have your chest pressed against the image detecting plate.

Because clothing often shows up on an X-ray (depending on the materials it contains), you will likely be asked to change into a gown. Wearing comfortable clothing that is easy and quick to change in/out of, will be an advantage.

It is an advantage to remove any body piercings that are in and around the chest area as they show up clearly. Necklaces also show on chest X-rays and often make the image unusable. If not removed prior to the X-ray (and not seen by the person performing the examination), the examination may have to be repeated.

Shoulder X-ray

Generally, treat the shoulder X-ray preparation the same as the chest X-ray preparation.

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Abdomen X-ray

The area imaged on an abdomen X-ray extends from the pubic bone in the groin, up to the bottom of the chest (the diaphragm should be seen on the image.) Again, the same principles as previously stated apply – a gown will need to be worn and jewellery/piercings in that area will need to be removed.

Be aware also that because of movement from breathing, you may be asked to hold your breath. This may be with a full breath in and hold your breath, or a full breath out and hold your breath.

Mammogram (breast screening X-ray)

Mammograms will require the patient to be fully undressed from the waist up and changed into a hospital gown. Nipple piercings should be removed.

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Pelvis and hip X-rays

This body area is almost impossible to image with clothes on. Denim shows up clearly on X-rays and may affect the diagnosis. Expect to be asked to change into a gown wearing only underwear.

You may be asked to adopt different positions during the X-ray. This is to image different portions of the pelvis and hip. Because of this (and the badly fitting gowns), good under-wear might be advised!

Piercings in this general area also show up, and should be removed if possible.

Knees and lower leg X-rays

If clothing can't be moved out of the way, it may need to be removed. Baggy clothing is often ideal for these examinations as it might mean you don't need to change at all.

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Hand and foot X-rays

X-rays of the hands or feet are often taken from different angles to ensure all areas are seen. The preparation involves removing jewellery from the areas being X-rayed, as well as shoes and socks for foot X-rays. Jewellery should be removed (and kept safe) prior to entering the examination room. Any bandages covering the injuries being X-rayed may need to be removed.

Skull and face X-rays

It is important to remove earrings, necklaces, hair-clips, and hair extensions. Tightly braided hair may obscure important information, and in some cases may need to be taken out. Dentures may need to be removed. Tongue, nose, and any facial piercings should be removed if possible.

In general...

There are many other examinations that look at specific areas and functions of the body. Each of these have their own preparations which can't be dealt with here. Following the general rule of wearing comfortable, easily changed clothing with little or no jewellery will be an advantage to both you and the healthcare professional.

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