Imagine how tough it would be for a doctor to set a broken arm if x-rays hadn’t been discovered! X-rays allow scientists, doctors and surgeons to see inside the human body without cutting it open. X-rays were discovered when German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen experimented with a special type of ray, called a cathode ray, in a dark room with a photographic plate. He placed his wife’s hand in the path of the rays in the front of the photographic plate and kept it very still. After he developed the plate, he noticed that he could see the bones of her hand much more plainly than he could see her muscles and her skin. The cathode rays had hit the plate very hard, creating the new type of ray. He had no clue what kind of ray it was, so he named it an x-ray since the letter “x” means “unknown.”
- Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen Biography
- History of the X-ray
- 1896 X-ray Machine Fired Up Again!
- X-ray Timeline
- Fitting Shoes with an X-ray Machine
- X-Rays and the Fluoroscope
Today we know that we can take pictures of the inside of our bodies because our bodies are made up of at least 70 percent water. X-rays are a form of radiation that pass straight through our bodies and produce images on photographic film plates on the other side. They work because bones absorb x-ray photons differently than skin and muscle do. This allows your bones to be seen in greater detail. Your skin and muscle remain in the shadowy background. X-ray machines allow certain types of radiation called photons to enter your body so that the x-ray technician can get the picture needed to examine you. It’s painless and quick. You sit still for a moment and the technician will get your x-ray. You may need to put on a hospital gown and take off any metal jewelry you may be wearing. Then you will stand, sit or lie on a table so that the x-ray can be taken. The technician will place you in the right position to snap the picture. Then the tech will go into the next room to press a little button that takes the x-ray. You might hear a little buzzing noise, and that’s okay. After your x-ray is taken, your doctor will look at it and talk to you and your family about what he saw.
- Getting an X-ray (video)
- How X-rays Work
- Broken Bones and X-rays
- See a Chest X-Ray
- Bone X-rays
- Brain Imaging
- The Parts of an X-ray Machine
The person who takes your x-ray is a technician called a radiographer. They assist radiologists, who are specialized doctors, by using imaging equipment to take your x-ray. X-rays are safe. Although the machines can be quite large, they don’t have to be scary. The doctors, nurses and technicians take special precautions to make sure that you don’t get more x-ray radiation than you need.