What Types of Injuries Can X-Rays Detect?

Aug 10, 2021

You are likely familiar with what an X-ray looks like, even if you’ve never had one before. Whether you’ve seen them on TV or movies, you will recognize X-rays for their distinct black, white, and gray images of the bones in the body. X-rays are common in medical settings, especially for diagnosing injuries like a broken bone or dislocated joint. You might be looking to find Snellville imaging that offer X-rays near you. Many places offer X-rays, including hospitals and urgent care centers. If you have a musculoskeletal injury like a broken bone or joint injury, then consider going to see an orthopedic doctor for an X-ray and quality, comprehensive care for your injury or issue.

How X-Rays Work

X-rays are a fast and reliable way for doctors to diagnose issues and injuries that affect bones and joints. Updated and improved X-ray technologies now mean that an X-ray will be an electronic image that your doctor can see almost instantly after the scan. Depending on where you have the injury or issue, an X-ray will scan that area and send a small amount of radiation through that part of the body. Bones are made of calcium and radiation cannot pass through them, so they will show up as white or lighter shades of gray on the scan. For example, the rib bones will show up as white and lighter gray while the lungs will be dark gray. A radiographer operates the X-ray examination and then sends the scan results to a radiologist for interpretation.

What X-Rays Are Used For

X-rays are used for diagnostic purposes in a number of injuries and conditions. Doctors rely on X-rays due to their fast and reliable results, especially in emergency or time-sensitive settings. X-rays are typically recommended for diagnosing musculoskeletal conditions because they will provide doctors with a quick and clear image of any damage to bones or joints. However, unlike CT scans or MRI scans, X-rays do not provide doctors with imaging of muscles, tendons, or other soft tissues in the body. With injuries or issues that may also affect soft tissues, your doctor may first request an X-ray to rule out any potential bone or joint-related injuries before moving on to other types of diagnostic imaging tools.

Common Injuries X-Rays Can Detect

Here are five examples of what X-rays can detect and how a doctor uses these for diagnosis and treatment. Snellville imaging experts can provide further direction and treatment with all of these diagnoses.

Broken Bones

The most common reason for X-rays is to detect broken bones. A broken bone is also known as a fracture and can occur in a few different ways. When many people think of a broken bone, they picture a brightly colored cast on a broken arm or leg. However, a broken bone doesn’t always need a cast and in some parts of the body, it isn’t even possible. There are also types of broken bones known as hairline fractures where a cast may not be beneficial.

Joint Injuries

Another reason a doctor may request an X-ray is for a joint injury. If you twisted your ankle walking down some steps or tripped and caught yourself with your hands outstretched, then your doctor may want to use an X-ray to check for any joint damage in your ankle joint, wrist joint, or elbow joint. An X-ray will show whether or not any bones have been broken or whether the joint is out of place, also known as a joint dislocation.

Bone Conditions

Doctors utilize X-rays to diagnose some medical conditions that affect the bones, like arthritis or osteoporosis. Images from an X-ray scan will show whether or not your bones have been damaged by one of these conditions or if there are any abnormalities that require further intervention.


Doctors also use X-ray technologies to diagnose certain cancers, like bone or lung cancer. The black and white contrast helps to show healthy bones in lighter colors versus damaged or unhealthy areas in darker shades. Your doctor may also request an X-ray with a contrast agent, which is a type of dye that helps highlight certain areas of the body.

Treatment Support

Your doctor may also want to run a series of X-rays throughout your treatment to monitor your progress. For example, an initial X-ray can show a broken wrist, and subsequent X-rays will show whether or not the bones are realigning and healing properly.


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