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Seeing is Believing

The X-ray, also known as a radiograph, is the oldest and most common form of medical imaging. X-rays are a form of radiation (ionizing) that passes through the human body and strikes a detector that either exposes a film or sends the resulting image to a computer.

Millions of X-rays are performed each year in the U. S. to help diagnose a variety of conditions. The conventional X-ray exam is called radiography and is defined by RadiologyInfo.org as “the examination of any part of the body for diagnostic purposes by means of x-rays with the findings usually recorded digitally or on film.”

The discovery of the X-ray in 1895 by physics professor Wilhelm Roentgen was truly a breakthrough in medical science, enabling humans for the first time to see inside the living human body.

“Seeing is believing,” said Northern Arizona Radiologist Stephen V. Ward, M.D. “Many people don’t realize that before the X-ray, there was no way to see inside the human body without cutting into it. This meant that scientific investigation of the internal human body was essentially confined to working with cadavers.”

Today, imaging centers such as Northern Arizona Radiology use the X-ray for many of the most familiar medical imaging exams, including mammography, to save lives and help prevent and treat disease and injury. X-rays are also the foundation for the advanced imaging techniques of computed tomography (CT) and fluoroscopy. All of these exams use ionizing radiation to generate accurate images of the body’s internal structure.

“X-ray images allow doctors to assess bone fractures, and they also serve as an important tool in guiding orthopedic surgery and the treatment of various sports-related injuries,” said Ward. “X-ray imaging can even help uncover certain advanced forms of bone cancer.”

According to Ward, the most common uses of X-ray are to identify and treat bone fractures, joint injuries, and to view and diagnose infections, arthritis, artery blockages or abdominal pain. No special preparation is required and most exams last from about five minutes to half an hour, depending on the injury or part of the body involved.

The medical community also understands the importance of using the lowest possible dose of radiation in medical imaging. Northern Arizona Radiology and other medical facilities across the nation have taken formal industry pledges – Image GentlyÒ for pediatric imaging and Image WiselyÒ for adult imaging – to raise awareness of opportunities to lower radiation doses for necessary procedures and eliminate medically unnecessary imaging exams.

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