CareNow® - April 18, 2022

Can I get an x-ray at urgent care?

X-rays are usually an inevitable part of life for most people. Whether it’s taking a look at a broken bone or checking for cavities at a dentist appointment, it’s likely you’ve had an x-ray at some point in your life.

But how much do you really know about x-rays? We’re sharing a few things you should know about x-rays, including what they’re typically used for, how they actually work and how you can prepare for one. Keep reading to have the mystery of the x-ray explained.

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Where to get an x-ray

Most x-rays are done at either a provider's or dentist's office, emergency room, hospital or urgent care facility. Each CareNow® urgent care location is fully equipped to give you complete x-ray services in a quick and quality manner.

How do x-rays work?

You may be wondering how do medical x-rays work? While many people will receive an x-ray in their life, this is a common question.

During an x-ray, a beam of electromagnetic waves moves through your body, with different tissues in your body absorbing different amounts of the beams. As these beams are being passed through your body, an imaging machine is able to produce the image, which will then be examined by a provider to look for specific issues or concerns.

How are x-ray images used?

So your provider has recommended that you get an x-ray for one reason or another. You may be wondering what he or she is planning to use the images for. In most cases, x-rays are used to look for fractures (aka broken bones); however, there are a number of other uses for x-rays as well.

providers will often prescribe x-rays to check for pneumonia (this is done using chest x-rays) and mammograms are another common x-ray done to scan for breast cancer. 

Are x-rays dangerous?

Many people are worried about radiation when it comes to x-rays. To avoid radiation exposure, it’s likely you’ll need to wear a lead apron during your imaging to protect the area of your body that’s getting checked.

Typically, x-rays give out a small amount of radiation. A chest x-ray, for example, will expose you to the same amount of radiation that you would otherwise get from the environment over a 10-day span.

Every type of x-ray carries a different level of risk depending on the part of your body that’s being imaged as well as the type of x-ray given. If you have concerns about getting an x-ray, talk to your provider beforehand about your hesitation.

What are x-rays used for?

X-rays use a type of radiation called electromagnetic waves to take images of the inside of your body — where medical professionals couldn’t see otherwise. Since different tissues in your body absorb radiation differently, these images appear in black and white. 

For instance, calcium is a big absorber of radiation, making bones show up as white on an x-ray, while fat is less absorbent and looks gray. Air is the least absorbent tissue in the body, which causes lungs to look black on an x-ray.

The most common use of x-rays is to look at bone fractures (or broken bones); however, there are many other uses for x-rays as well. Women will typically have mammograms (a form of x-ray) every year to check for breast cancer. Chest x-rays can also be used to identify pneumonia in the body.

How to prepare for an x-ray

Preparation for your x-ray will depend on the type of imaging you need. Your provider or nurse should provide you with instructions specific to your x-ray.

In most cases, you’ll need to remove any clothing that’s covering the area to be examined. You may be asked to wear a hospital gown, similar to what you’d wear to a general physical. You’ll most likely also be asked to remove jewelry, any other metal objects you’re wearing, and eyeglasses to avoid having them show up on the x-ray.

Lastly, always notify your medical provider or technologist if you think you may be pregnant.

Is a CT scan the same as an x-ray?

If your provider has recommended you get a CT scan, you may be confused if it’s the same thing as an x-ray. A CT scan is actually a type of x-ray that combines computer processing with standard x-ray technology to create a 3D image.

A CT scan will give your provider the ability to see structures inside your body from unique angles that a normal x-ray may not.

What to expect during an x-ray

While this varies from x-ray to x-ray, there are some basic things you can expect no matter what.

A technologist will help you position yourself so that the imaging machine will be able to get the best views of your body necessary. If you’re laying down, pillows or sandbags may be used to help you hold your position while the machine does its job.

It’s important that you stay very still during your x-ray. Depending on the type of x-ray you’re receiving, you may even be asked to hold your breath to prevent the image from appearing blurry.

You won’t be able to feel the x-ray as it occurs; however, you will be able to see the machine moving as it collects the images from your body.

Does urgent care do chest x-rays?

Urgent care facilities like CareNow® are a great place to go for chest x-rays. We’ve earned the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry’s association, Urgent Care Association (UCA), so you can rest assured you’re getting the best care.

Chest x-rays are commonly used to give healthcare providers a look at the following:

  • Lungs
  • Aorta
  • Bronchi
  • Heart
  • Bones of the chest
  • Middle chest area
  • Pulmonary arteries

Whether you need a chest x-ray or any other type of scan, consider visiting your local CareNow®. We’ve got more than 175 locations throughout the country so it’s easy to find a convenient location near you.

We’re also open after hours and on the weekends, when most physician’s offices are closed, so you can get the care you need when you need it.

We also offer a Web Check-In® feature that allows you to avoid the waiting room and wait for your appointment from anywhere.

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