Why are X-Rays the Key to Diagnosing Orthopedic Problems?

Imaging Odessa, TXWhile they are anything but new, X-rays continue to be the most important diagnostic tool we use at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists. Our digital X-ray machine provides the highest quality images and also allows a great degree of flexibility.

Despite being around since 1895, many people don’t quite understand how X-rays work. Since they are a big part of our practice, here’s some information on the valuable X-ray.

When were X-rays invented?

If we break a bone or have joint damage, we assume we’re going to need an X-ray. But before 1895, you couldn’t do that. Before then, you were at the mercy of a doctor’s poking, prodding, and, to be honest, guessing about what was going on with your bones under your skin and muscle tissue.

That all changed in 1895 when a German physics professor, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, discovered the X-ray. He was experimenting with electron beams in a gas discharge tube. The electromagnetic radiation made the tube glow with fluorescent light. At one point, he covered the tube with black cardboard to block the light generated. Despite being covered, Roentgen noticed that a screen across his lab that was coated with barium started to glow.

He placed various objects between the tube and the screen and the screen still glowed, meaning the beam was going through the objects. Finally, he put his hand in front of the tube and saw the silhouette of his bones projected onto the screen. Roentgen had discovered the X-ray and its most beneficial application immediately after. He called the new ray the “X-ray” from “X” being the unknown in mathematics.

How X-rays show bones

Different parts of the body absorb X-rays differently. Soft tissues such as organs, muscles, fat, and nerves block only a part or none of the beam, so they appear in various shades of grey in the film. The calcium in bones, however, blocks X-rays completely. This creates a white shadow on the film. X-rays enable us to see straight through human tissue to examine broken bones, cavities in dentistry, and even swallowed objects in a two-year-old! To see soft tissue, X-ray procedures are modified by introducing a “contrast media” into the body. This is usually a barium compound, which absorbs X-rays more effectively, so the organs, blood vessels, or other soft tissues show up on the X-ray film.

Digital X-rays

At Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, we use state-of-the-art digital X-ray equipment for diagnostics. These digital X-rays have various advantages over film X-rays: the images are high resolution; the images can be scaled in size; the images can be easily saved without physical storage space, and the images can be shared with other doctors to gain a second opinion.

Trust the expertise of Urgent Orthopedic Specialists with your orthopedic issues. Call us at 432-520-3020 to make an appointment.

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