An X-ray is a common imaging test that has been used for decades to help doctors view the inside of the body without having to make an incision.
The X-ray was made public in 1896 with an image of the hand of anatomist Albert von Kölliker taken by Wilhelm Röntgen, the scientist who discovered X-rays. In the hundred years or so that followed, this basic X-ray technology has become a key element in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of many types of medical conditions.
Today, there are different kinds of X-rays that are used for specific purposes. A pelvis X-ray looks specifically at your pelvic region—the area between your hips that holds many of your reproductive and digestive organs. Your pelvis is actually made up of three bones—the ilium, ischium, and pubis—and also forms your hip joint.
Like all X-rays, this test uses a small amount of radiation, so it may not be recommended for pregnant women or small children.
Your doctor may order a pelvic X-ray for numerous reasons. Often, an X-ray is taken after a traumatic event, such as a car accident or a fall.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a pelvic X-ray can help your doctor detect various conditions, such as:
- arthritis that affects your hip
- inflammation where your sacrum joins the ilium (sacroilitis)
- pelvic fractures
- stiffness of the spine or sacroiliac joint (ankylosing spondylitis)
- tumors (NIH)
X-rays use small amounts of radiation. The level of exposure is considered safe for adults. However, it is not considered safe for developing fetuses. If you are pregnant or believe you could be pregnant, tell your doctor before the procedure. He or she may suggest alternative testing methods that do not use radiation, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. (Mayo)
If you are having an X-ray due to a traumatic event that caused pain and possibly a broken pelvis, you may experience additional pain during the X-ray. The test requires you to adjust your body so that clear images can be taken. This may cause you discomfort. If you are worried, you can ask your doctor for pain medicine prior to your X-ray.
For some X-rays, your doctor will inject you with a contrast dye before the procedure in order to improve the images. The dye—usually iodine—can cause some side effects. These include hives, itching, lightheadedness, nausea, or a metallic taste in the mouth. In very rare cases, the dye can cause a severe reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, very low blood pressure, or cardiac arrest.
According to the Radiological Society of North America, X-rays are standard procedures and involve almost no preparation from the patient. (RNSA)
Depending on the area under review, you may want to wear loose, comfortable clothing that you can easily move around in. You may also be asked to change into a hospital gown for the test.
You will be instructed to remove any jewelry and other metallic items from your body before the X-ray is taken. You should always tell your doctor if you have any metal implants from prior surgeries. These can block the X-rays from passing through your body.
If your test requires contrast dye, a doctor or nurse will give it to you as an injection, an enema, or a pill to swallow before the test.
If your X-ray is examining your intestines, your doctor may tell you to fast for a certain amount of time beforehand, or to clear out your bowels.
X-rays are performed in a hospital’s radiology department or a clinic that specializes in diagnostic procedures. Once you are fully prepared, an X-ray technician—called a radiologist—will tell you how he or she needs you to be positioned in order to get the right view.
The technician will most likely require you to lie, sit, or stand in several positions during the test. Some images may be taken while you stand in front of a specialized plate that contains X-ray film or sensors.
In some cases, the technician will move a large camera connected to a steel arm over your body. This can capture the X-ray images of your body using film or sensors held in the table.
While the images are being taken, you will have to hold your breath and remain still. This provides the clearest images possible.
The test is finished as soon as your radiologist is satisfied with the images gathered.
After the test, you can change back into your regular clothes and go about your normal activities right away.
When the X-ray is complete, a radiologist will go over the images on a computer. He or she will then send the findings to your doctor. Results from your X-ray may be available the same day.
Your doctor will view the X-rays and the radiologist’s report, and determine how to proceed. He or she may order additional imaging scans, blood tests, or other diagnostic measures to help you get an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment.