What are X-rays?

X-rays are very quick exams and it will feel similar to having a photograph taken.

A machine directs a beam of X-rays through the part of your body that is being examined onto a special detector.

The picture produced on the detector shows the structures that the X-rays have passed through.


What information is obtained?

They are used for lots of different purposes, the most common being to look for broken bones or chest X-rays to check for infection and other issues.

The video below explains the process involved in an X-ray and the risks which are very low.

What do I need to know?

This video details the process involved in an X-ray, what to expect and information around the risks involved.

Take away points:

  • X-rays do not cause pain.

  • X-rays use very low radiation doses and are a low risk.

  • You may be asked to take off some clothes and jewelry that might show up on X-ray, and put on a hospital gown (metal, plastic, elastic and thick material show up on X-ray).

  • An X-ray is very quick.

  • You should tell the person doing your X-ray test if you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant.

  • The Radiographer will not be able to provide you with information about your health issue as this process is carried out by another member of staff.

Patient shielding

In the past you may have been given a lead apron or small shields for a certain body part during an X-ray. Recent science shows that this is usually not necessary due to improvements in technology and scientific knowledge.

Therefore, you may notice that you are no longer offered shielding where you previously were. If you would like more information on why this change has happened you can find it in the document "Guidance on using contact shielding on patients for diagnostic radiology applications" (BIR).


  • X-rays will only be used if a healthcare professional can show that the benefit to you is greater than the risk (justified).

  • X-rays do not hurt.

  • The equipment will be maintained to reduce the dose to keep the dose and risk to you as low as possible.

  • The individual carrying out the imaging will be trained to keep the dose and risk to you as low as possible.

  • If you have any more questions please ask a healthcare professional.

If you'd like to find out more about the risks of using X-rays, there is more information within the 'Radiation Risk' section.