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X-rays are a form of ionizing radiation that can be used to create images of the inside of your body. These images are useful for detection of bone fractures, bone abnormalities, tumours and abnormal growths.

X-rays are collectively known as X-Radiation, which is a type of high-energy electromagnetic radiation (also known as ionizing radiation). X-Rays are a type of radiation that is similar to visible light, in that you cannot see or feel it. However, X-Rays have a higher energy than light and can pass through objects, including the human anatomy.

As they pass through the body, the energy from X-Rays is absorbed at different rates by various parts of the body. The images are seen as various shades of black and white, depending on how easily the X-rays can pass through. There will be a detector on the other side of the body that picks up the X-Rays and turns them into an image (a radiograph).

X-ray radiography is commonly used to detect:

  • bone fractures and breaks
  • abnormal curvature of the spine, known as scoliosis
  • tumours and abnormal masses
  • lung problems, such as pneumonia
  • calcifications
  • foreign objects
  • dental problems such as loose teeth or abscesses

X-rays produce ionising radiation, which is a form of radiation that has the potential to harm living tissue. The risk increases with each exposure over a lifetime, so x-rays are usually limited to reduce this risk. For health concerns that require frequent monitoring, such as arthritis, an MRI might be a better alternative.

Ultrasound, also known as a sonogram, is a non-invasive diagnostic technique used to create images of areas within the body by using sound waves.

An ultrasound is commonly used to visualise muscles, tendons and internal organs to capture their size, structure and any abnormalities in real-time.

There are no known risks with external ultrasound scans, which is why they are commonly used for growth and well-being scans throughout pregnancy.

Ultrasound probes, called transducers, produce sound waves that have frequencies beyond the range of human hearing. When placed on the skin, the probe emits these high-frequency sound waves, which bounce off different parts of the body and create ‘echoes’ which can be translate into a moving image.

Ultrasound is most commonly used to help diagnose the causes of pain, swelling and infection in the body’s internal organs and to examine pregnant women to assess the development of a baby.

Ultrasound has no known risks and does not use ionizing radiation, like X-rays or CT Scans.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive scan that can examine pain, swelling and infection for internal organs, such as:

  • liver
  • gallbladder
  • spleen
  • pancreas
  • kidneys
  • bladder
  • uterus and ovaries
  • unborn children in pregnant patients
  • thyroid glands
  • prostate

DEXA stands for ‘dual energy X-ray absorptiometry’ but is also referred to as ‘bone densitometry’ scanning or ‘DXA’ and is used to determine the bone mineral density (strength) of bones.

Particular bone conditions and medications may create a loss in bone density, which DEXA can detect faster and more accurately than an X-Ray. For example, osteoporosis can only be detected on X-Ray once some of the bone mass has already been lost.

Having a DEXA scan can help determine if you have particular bone conditions or whether you may develop them in the future, so your clinical specialist can provide suitable treatment options to help prevent bone loss or damage.

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is the means of using X-Ray to examine the bone mineral density (strength) of your bones. The two X-Ray beams, of varying energy strength, are aimed at the bone and the density can be determined from the absorption of the different X-rays into the bone.

Having a DEXA scan can help determine if you have particular bone conditions or whether you may develop them in the future, so your clinical specialist can provide suitable treatment options to help prevent bone loss or damage.

DEXA is most commonly used to check for signs of osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become weak and prone to fracture.  It is the most accurate and reliable way to measure your bone density and find out if you have osteoporosis, or if you may develop it in the future. There are usually no symptoms; the first sign is often a break or fracture.

Common reasons to consider having a DEXA scan:

  • Have you had a minor strain or fall which resulted in a bone break or fracture?
  • Do you have a family history of osteoporosis or broken bone disease?
  • Are over the age of 50?
  • Do you have low testosterone or oestrogen levels?
  • Have you been diagnosed with early menopause?
  • Have you had your ovaries removed before the age of 45?
  • Do you have a long history of missed periods?
  • Are you on long-term steroid medication?
  • Do you have any digestive disorders that affect nutrient absorption, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or coeliac disease?

DEXA utilises the same technology as having an X-ray but differs in that 2 varying X-ray strengths are used to detect bone density. X-rays produce ionising radiation, which is a form of radiation that has the potential to harm living tissue. The risk increases with each exposure over a lifetime, so x-rays are usually limited to reduce this risk.