Health Information

Bone x-ray

Bone x-ray


X-ray - bone

A bone x-ray is an imaging test to look at the bones.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • How the Test is Performed

    The test is done in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office by an x-ray technician. For the test, you will position the bone to be x-rayed on the table. Pictures are then taken, and the bone is repositioned for different views.

  • How to Prepare for the Test

    Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant. You must remove all jewelry for the x-ray.

  • How the Test Will Feel

    The x-rays are painless. Changing position for getting different views of the bone may be uncomfortable.

  • Why the Test is Performed

    A bone x-ray is used to look for injuries or conditions affecting the bone.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean

    Abnormal findings include:

    • Fractures or broken bone
    • Bone tumors
    • Degenerative bone conditions
    • Osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone caused by an infection)

    Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) II
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Osgood-Schlatter disease
    • Osteogenesis imperfecta
    • Osteomalacia
    • Paget's disease
    • Primary hyperparathyroidism
    • Rickets
  • Risks

    There is low radiation exposure. X-rays machines are set to provide the smallest amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits.

    Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray. A protective shield may be worn over areas not being scanned.

Related Information

  X-rayBroken boneBone tumorOsteomyelitisCystic fibrosisMultiple endocrine...Multiple myeloma...Osgood-Schlatter d...Osteogenesis imper...Osteomalacia    


Clement J. Basic imaging techniques in the adult. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 13, section A.

Clement J. Imaging consideration in the skeletally immature patient. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 13, section B.

Renner JB. Conventional radiography in musculoskeletal imaging. Radiol Clin North Am. 2009 May;47(3):357-72.


Review Date: 4/14/2013  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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