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As with many of mankind’s monumental discoveries, X-ray technology was invented completely by accident.  In 1895, a German physicist named Wilhelm Roentgen made the discovery while experimenting with electron beams in a gas discharge tube.  Roentgen noticed that a fluorescent screen in his lab started to glow when the electron beam was turned on.

Roentgen placed various objects between the tube and the screen, and the screen still glowed.  Finally, he put his wife’s hand in front of the tube, and saw the silhouette of her bones projected onto the fluorescent screen.  Immediately after discovering X-rays themselves, he had discovered their most beneficial application.

Roentgen’s remarkable discovery precipitated one of the most important medical advancements in human history.  X-ray technology lets doctors see straight through human tissue to examine broken bones, cavities and swallowed objects with extraordinary ease.  Modified X-ray procedures can be used to examine softer tissue, such as the lungs, blood vessels or the intestines.

X-rays are a wonderful addition to the world of medicine; they let doctors peer inside a patient without any surgery at all.  It’s much easier and safer to look at a broken bone using X-rays than it is to open a patient up.

X-ray scans use ionizing radiation, with most scans the radiation level is low and your body is only exposed for a fraction of a second.  Generally, the radiation dosage you receive from an X-ray scan is what would be normally be experienced over the course of a number of days or months.  For more information visit GOV.UK: patient dose information

X-ray scanning is still a safer option than surgery.  X-ray machines are an invaluable tool in medicine, as well as an asset in security and scientific research.  They are truly one of the most useful inventions of all time.  For more information visit NHS.UK: X-Rays

An X-ray Examination

For an x-ray examination, you go into a dedicated x-ray suite with a radiographer. The following happens:


  • You may be asked to undress as required and given a gown to wear.
  • Your position for the x-ray will be either lying on an x-ray table, sitting or standing, depending on the examination requested and may need to be repositioned for different views.
  • The examination is concluded and you will be informed where and when your results will reach your referring clinician.

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