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X-ray – Patient Information

This page aims to answer some of the questions you may have about having an X-ray. It explains the benefits, risks and alternatives to the procedure. It explains what you can expect when you come to hospital. If you have any further questions please speak to your consultant or the Imaging department

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What are X-rays?

X-rays are a painless and quick way to get a picture of the inside of the human body. It is used mainly to look at structures of the body, like bones and soft tissues, using radiation (electromagnetic radiation).

Depending on the density of the part of the body being X-rayed, different structures show up black (air), white (bone) or grey (soft tissue). X-rays are a very good way to diagnose conditions as well as monitor existing conditions.

What can I expect?

• When you arrive, you will need to check in with our receptionist who will give you some paperwork to fill out and show you to the waiting room. You may have a coffee or water while you wait
• The radiographer (a trained specialist) will collect you from the waiting room once there is a room available
• You might be asked to change into a gown
• The radiographer will confirm some details with you, such as your name and date of birth
• You will then be asked to either lie on the X-ray table and/or stand up against a bucky for your X-ray, depending on what body area we are looking at
• The radiographer will give you clear instruction throughout
• Please note that the Imaging waiting room has patients for a number of different scans and it may look like we are taking some patients ahead of you. However this is not the case as different examinations require the use of different equipment in different rooms

Are X-rays harmful?

A number of people are worried about having an X-ray because of the use of radiation, which has the potential to cause cell mutation and then lead to cancer. However the radiation exposure during an X-ray is generally low and the benefits outweigh the risks. If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to ask your radiographer about it.

What if I am pregnant?

The risk to an unborn child during an X-ray is very low and for certain body parts, we do not need to know if you’re pregnant. However, if you are of child bearing age and you are pregnant or suspect that you may be, your doctor might consider another imaging test, like an ultrasound.

How do I prepare?

This depends on the type of X-ray you are having. Most X-rays need no preparation. If you have been given a referral for an X-ray (e.g. from your GP), please bring this. We typically cannot complete your examination without a referral.

What should I wear?

During the examination you may be asked to change into a gown, and to remove jewellery/any metal objects, as they show up on the X-ray and can obscure important information. If you can, please wear clothing that is easy to remove. Avoid zips, metal buttons or clothes made of thick material.

Can I bring a relative or friend?

You may bring a relative or friend with you to the Imaging department, but they will usually not be able to go into the examination room.

Can I bring my children?

We do not have childcare facilities and children cannot go into the scan room with you.

If you need to bring your children with you, please bring an adult who can look after them while you are having the examination, without a supervising adult your scan will need to be rebooked

Assistance and support

If you need assistance due to a medical problem or you feel you need support in the Imaging department, please let us know on your arrival or call us before you arrive so arrangements can be made.

Asking for your consent

The radiographer will ask you if you are happy for the X-ray to go ahead (verbal consent) and may only involve the radiographer checking that you are booked for the correct X-ray. If you do not wish to have the X-ray or are undecided, please tell the radiographer. It is your decision and you can change your mind at any time. Please remember that you can ask the radiographer any questions you have at any time.

When will I get the results?

The results will be sent to the doctor who referred you for the X-ray.

Our reporting turnaround time is five working days however 90% of reports reach the consultant within 24hrs. For advice, support or to raise a concern, contact your consultant
or the Imaging department. To make a complaint, email

Contact us

Please contact the Imaging team about any general concerns on 0207 467 4317. However, if you experience any symptoms of concern please contact your GP or go to your local Emergency Department (A&E).

Your comments and concerns

If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, please speak to the staff caring for you. For support or advice please speak to your consultant or the Imaging department on 0207 467 4317.

Language and accessible support services

If you need an interpreter or information about your care in a different language or format, please get in touch.