Diagnostic X-Ray Procedures

Diagnostic x-ray, or radiography, is a special method for taking pictures of areas inside your body. The procedure uses x-rays to reveal important information about your body’s function and anatomy. Your doctor can use a variety of diagnostic x-ray procedures to diagnose disease or injury. 

The equipment, staff, and steps involved are different for each type of diagnostic x-ray procedure. However, they all give your doctor an invaluable tool in detecting abnormalities and making early diagnosis of disease. 

During an x-ray, a machine focuses a small amount of radiation on the area of your body to be examined. The x-rays pass through the body, creating an image on film or a computer display.

Why Are Diagnostic X-Ray Procedures Done?

Diagnostic x-ray procedures each serve a different function, but they are all useful to your doctor in evaluating your health.

Various types of diagnostic x-ray procedures are ordered for different reasons. Common procedures include:

  • Angiography uses an injection of contrast medium to image blood vessels in a specific part of your body. Angiograms show the function of your blood vessels in your heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, or arms and legs.
  • Arthrogram uses an injection of contrast medium into a joint. This procedure shows injury or disease in your joints, arms, and legs.
  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series uses a barium solution as a contrast medium and helps evaluate the function of the esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine.
  • Lower GI series uses a barium enema to evaluate the colon and rectum.
  • Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP) uses a contrast medium injection to evaluate the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.
  • Mammography uses a special x-ray machine to create images of breast tissue for detection of abnormalities. 


While diagnostic x-ray procedures are generally safe and very effective, there is some exposure to radiation. However, the benefits of early detection and treatment far outweigh the risks.

Before the Exam

Most routine x-rays do not require you to prepare for the exam. However, special studies, such as contrast radiography or barium enemas, will require you to follow special instructions from your doctor.

You may be asked to make dietary changes leading up to the time of your exam. You may also be asked to leave your jewelry at home, along with other metal objects that could interfere with the x-ray images. You may be asked to avoid using deodorants, body powders, or creams or the day of your appointment.

Please tell your doctor if you have had a reaction to contrast medium in the past or if you think you might be pregnant, as exposure to radiation may produce birth defects. 

If you have questions about a health condition that could affect your exam, please talk to a technologist or radiologist. 

During the Exam

You will follow a different process depending on the diagnostic x-ray procedure. You may be asked to change into a gown or smock.

At your appointment, you will meet x-ray professionals, specially trained to help you with your procedure:

  •  A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in imaging the human body.
  •  A radiologic technologist is trained to operate the equipment and obtain x-ray images.
  •  A radiologic nurse monitors your vital signs, administers medication, and provides patient care during the procedure.

Once you have changed into your smock or gown, a technologist will escort you into the x-ray room where you will stand, sit, or lie on a table that is near an x-ray machine. An apron or shield may be places over your body to protect sensitive organs during the exam. The machine will take several x-rays, and you may be asked to adjust your position during the test. It is important that you remain still during each examination. 

After the Exam

You may be asked to wait until the radiologist reviews your images to be sure additional images aren’t needed. If you ingested a contrast medium or barium, it is important that you drink plenty of liquid over the 24-48 hours following your scan to help you pass the material.

The radiologist will review your images and send a report to your doctor, who will notify you of any findings. You may also request to receive your images on CD.

Request an Appointment

To speak to an Imaging Services representative or to schedule an appointment with Imaging Services, please call 214-645-XRAY (9729).