What is an X-ray (Radiograph)?

An X-ray (radiograph) is an image of an area of the body captured using electromagnetic energy beams in the form of ionizing radiation to produce images onto film or computer. X-rays are the original and most frequently used form of diagnostic medical imaging and were first discovered by German scientist, Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. In an X-ray, images are formed from the differences in density of the tissues that absorb a beam of electrons traveling through the body. These images are captured digitally in the form of a radiograph.

Today, a diagnostic X-ray exam is one of the fastest and easiest exams enabling a physician to view the internal organs and conditions of bones. X-rays has come a long way from the 90 minutes of imaging time it used to take to produce studies to mere fractions of a minute. Learn more about the history of the X-ray here.

X-rays are commonly used to assess:

  • Bone fractures and skeletal trauma
  • Joint injuries and infections
  • Arthritis and cancer diagnosis
  • Lungs, heart, kidneys and blood vessels
  • Skulls, facial bones, and sinuses
  • Artery blockages and digestive tracts
  • Breast, chest, and pelvic areas

X-rays and radiation safety

We’re exposed to background radiation all the time in daily life, naturally occurring from radioactive materials on the earth and cosmic rays from space. X-rays used in medical imaging are safe when administered by qualified radiology technicians. The amount of radiation used in most examinations is very small and the benefits greatly outweigh the risk of harm. HDI’s X-ray Technologists have been trained to use the minimum amount of radiation necessary for optimal results.

Women should always inform their physician and HDI Technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant so that the necessary precautions can be taken.

To learn more about effective X-ray radiation doses, visit radiologyinfo.org.


Continue taking your current medications as normal unless specified by your physician.

Food and drink

For most X-ray exams there are no restrictions on what you may eat or drink. Your physician will notify you of any exceptions..

When to arrive

Please arrive at High Desert Imaging 15-20 minutes before your exam appointment.

What to wear

Wear comfortable clothing, like sweats. Be sure to avoid clothing containing metal found in eyelets, rivets, zippers or buttons. Also be conscious of metal in any undergarments worn as it can interfere with the quality of the imaging. You may be asked to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids or any dentures and any metal objects or clothing if necessary and gowns are available if needed.


X-ray exams are painless but will require you to remain completely still for a few moments or hold your breath (usually for chest X-rays) while the X-ray image is taken. You will be positioned for the exam either standing up or lying down so that the X-ray machine is aligned with the area being imaged. You may also be fitted with a fabric-encased, protective lead shield to protect parts of the body surrounding the area being imaged from unnecessary X-ray exposure.


Your HDI Technologist will help position you on the X-ray machine so that the body area being examined is situated correctly between the X-ray film plates and image intensifier. You may be asked to lie above the X-ray image plates, or instructed to stand in front of them. Once you’re positioned, our technologist will ask you to remain perfectly still while briefly leaving the room to flip the X-ray switch quickly on then off to capture the image. The technologist will then return to reposition you for another view if required, and the process is repeated as necessary.

Length of scan

X-ray exams can take anywhere between five to thirty minutes depending on the areas of the body being imaged.

After your X-ray exam

After your exam, you may resume your normal activities, diet, and medications unless instructed otherwise by your HDI Technologist or doctor. If you received a contrast medium before your X-rays, call your doctor if you experience pain, swelling or redness at the injection site or have an allergic reaction to any contrast administered.

Scan results 

We pride ourselves on delivering superior studies and rapid exam results. Diagnostic exams are typically read within 24 hours with results sent to your primary care physician who will go over them with you in detail. We’ll also provide you with a DVD copy of your exam images.

If you have additional questions about our X-ray procedures, please use our online contact form or call us at 775.621.5800.