Having an X-ray

Duringan X-ray, you'll usually be asked to lie on a table or stand against a flat surfacesothat the part of your body being examinedcan be positioned in the right place.

The X-ray machine, which looks like a tube containing a large light bulb, will be carefully aimed at the part of the body being examined by the radiographer. They willoperate the machine from behind a screen or from the next room.

The X-ray will last for a fraction of a second.You won't feel anything while it's carried out.

While the X-ray is being taken, you'll need to keep still so the image producedisn't blurred. More than one X-ray may be taken from different angles toprovide as muchinformation as possible

Theprocedure will usually only take a few minutes.


In some cases, asubstance called a contrast agent may be given before an X-ray is carried out. This can help show soft tissues more clearly on the X-ray.

Types of X-rays involving a contrast agent include:

  • barium swallow a substance called barium is swallowedtohelp highlight the upper digestive system
  • barium enema barium is passed into your bowel through your bottom
  • angiography iodine is injected into a blood vessel to highlight the heart and blood vessels
  • intravenous urogram (IVU) iodine is injected into a blood vesselto highlight thekidneys and bladder

These types of X-rays may need special preparation beforehand and will usually take longer to carry out.Your appointment letter will mention anything you need to do to prepare.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018