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X-Ray

X-rays are a form of radiation, like light or radio waves, that can be focused into a beam, much like a flashlight beam. Unlike a beam of light, though, X-rays can pass through most objects, including the human body.

When X-rays strike a piece of photographic film, they can produce a picture. Dense tissues in the body, such as bones, block (absorb) many of the X-rays and appear white on an X-ray picture. Less dense tissues, such as muscles and organs, block fewer of the X-rays (more of the X-rays pass through) and appear in shades of gray. X-rays that pass only through air appear black on an X-ray picture.

Many centers are changing from film to using computers for digital pictures.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerHoward Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Last RevisedApril 24, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 24, 2012
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