What is an X-ray?

A digital representation of a skeleteon undergoing an x-ray

An X-ray is the oldest and most frequent form of medical imaging. X-ray, also known as ("radiography") is a quick, painless test that produces images of the structure inside your body, particularly your bones.

A specific body part is exposed to a small amount of radiation, producing a black and white image. This image is used to help physicians identify flaws or cracks in structural components. X-ray is recognized as a valuable medical tool for a wide variety of examinations and procedures to support medical and surgical treatment planning.

Did you know?

X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röentgen, a professor at Würzburg University in Germany. Röentgen noticed crystals near a high-voltage cathode-ray tube exhibiting a fluorescent glow, even when he shielded them with dark paper. Some form of energy was being produced by the tube, and it was penetrating the paper and causing the crystals to glow. Röentgen called the unknown energy "X-radiation." Experiments showed that this radiation could penetrate soft tissues but not bone, and would produce shadow images on photographic plates.

For this discovery, Röentgen was awarded the very first Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1901. During World War I, X-rays were already being used for medical purposes.