An extremity X-ray is a picture of your
hand, wrist, arm, foot, ankle, knee, or leg. It is done to see whether your
bone has been
fractured or your joint
dislocated. It is also used to check for an injury or
damage from conditions such as infection,
arthritis, bone growths (tumors), or other bone
diseases, such as
osteoporosis. In an emergency, the doctor can see the
initial results of an extremity X-ray in a few minutes. Otherwise, a
radiologist usually has the official X-ray report
ready the next day.
The bones, joints, and soft tissue look normal. No foreign
objects, such as fragments of metal or glass, are present.
No infection and no abnormal growths (tumors) are
The joints are normal with no dislocation or signs of
disease, such as arthritis.
All parts of a joint replacement are in the correct
Fractured bones may be present.
Foreign objects, such as fragments of metal or glass, may
Abnormal growths (tumors) are present.
Signs of bleeding or infection, such as a collection of
blood, pus, or gas may be present.
A joint may be dislocated.
The bones or joints may show signs of damage from a
disease such as
Paget's disease, or rheumatoid arthritis of the feet and
Swelling is present in tissues around the bones even
though the bones may be normal.
There are loose parts, worn parts, or an infection in a
joint that has artificial pieces (joint replacement).
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
- If you can't remain still during the test. This may cause
the pictures to be blurry.
- If you are very overweight. This can
make it hard to see details in some types of X-ray pictures.
- If you
are pregnant and need an X-ray of a leg in the area close to the pelvis.
What To Think About
- Your X-ray results may be different from earlier test results
because you were tested at a different medical center or you had a different
kind of test.
X-rays do not give a clear picture of soft tissue, such as cartilage, tendons,
or ligaments. A
computed tomography (CT) scan or
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be needed to
check the condition of these soft tissues.
- Fractures or other bone problems are not always seen
on an X-ray. In these cases, other tests such as a
bone scan, CT scan, or MRI may be needed to give a
clearer picture. To learn more, see the topic
- Not all injuries to the arms or
legs need X-rays. An X-ray may not be done if the doctor believes that the
results would not change or affect the treatment and follow-up care.