What Does an X-ray Show?
X-rays are electromagnetic rays of very short wavelength which can penetrate matter through which light rays cannot pass. We call this opaque matter. An X-ray photograph shows a picture of the internal structure of the body allowing doctors to diagnose broken bones and examine the organs of the body.
In order to show the position and shape of the stomach and intestine a harm less liquid containing barium is swallowed, and other opaque substances may be injected to show the outlines of other organs. Oxygen can also be injected into the brain to make its outline sharper.
X-rays are made by using external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body tissues onto specially-treated plates (similar to camera film) and a “negative” type picture is made (the more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film). Instead of film, X-rays are now typically made by using computers and digital media.
When the body undergoes X-rays, different parts of the body allow varying amounts of the X-ray beams to pass through. Images are made in degrees of light and dark. It depends on the amount of X-rays that penetrate the tissues. The soft tissues in the body (like blood, skin, fat, and muscle) allow most of the X-ray to pass through and appear dark gray on the film. A bone or a tumor, which is denser than soft tissue, allows few of the X-rays to pass through and appears white on the X-ray. At a break in a bone, the X-ray beam passes through the broken area. It appears as a dark line in the white bone.
X-rays of the spine may be performed to evaluate any area of the spine (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, or coccygeal). Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose spine, back, or neck problems include myelography (myelogram), computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or bone scans.
The discovery of X-rays was recorded in January 1896 by Professor Röntgen, Professor of Physics at Würzburg. Chest X-rays led to the early diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis and from these beginnings the science of radiography and radiotherapy developed until now countless X-ray installations are in daily use throughout the world.
X-rays are used both to diagnose and to treat deep-seated diseases like cancer. Scientific laboratories use them in experiments while industry uses them in work of investigation. By using high-tension apparatus giving up to 300,000 volts, steel can be examined for faults and hidden weaknesses can be discovered in airplane construction.