An imaging test
An X-ray test is one type of imaging test – a test that uses special equipment to create one or more pictures of part of the inside of the body.
This topic gives general information. The way the X-ray tests are performed will vary between different hospitals.
What is it?
An X-ray test uses an X-ray to take a picture of bones and other parts of the inside of your child’s body. X-rays pass through fluid (liquid) and soft tissues, but are blocked by more dense – or more solid – structures such as bones.
A machine directs X-rays into your child’s body. An image (picture) is recorded as a computerised digital image. Denser structures (such as bones) look white in the image, and softer structures (such as the heart) look a bit darker.
The air in the lungs looks dark.
Why does my child need this test?
X-ray tests may be used for different reasons. For example, a chest X-ray is used for children who have problems breathing, as it can show whether there is any fluid or infection in the lungs.
Risks and complications
What are X-rays?
X-rays are one type of ionising radiation, a form of energy. At high levels, ionising radiation can be dangerous to humans because it can damage cells, the living parts of the body.
Are X-ray tests harmful?
How to prepare your child
Speak with your child about the X-ray test, and what will happen. If he or she is old enough, explain what it is looking for and why it is needed.
X-ray tests normally take place in the X-ray department of your hospital. A radiographer, a specialist trained in imaging tests, usually performs the test.
The radiographer will let you know if your child needs to remove any metal objects, such as a watch.
Your child lies on a table or stands against a surface. The part of his or her body being examined is between the X-ray machine and a plate which records the image.
Your child needs to stay still for a moment while the machine directs an X-ray through his or her body. This lasts less than a second. Your child cannot feel the X-ray, though the machine will make a noise.
The plate records an image of the X-ray. This may be connected to a computer that can copy the image.
What to expect afterwards
Your child can usually go home straight away after the scan.
Getting the results