How to prepare for a musculoskeletal X-ray scan?

Most X-ray scans of the musculoskeletal system do not require any special preparation.

You may be asked to take off some or all of your clothes. Furthermore, you may be asked to remove your jewelry, glasses of other metal items on your body. The reason for this is the possibility of an overlap with structures of the body which makes the scan more difficult to analyze.

Regarding the potentially harmful effect of ionizing radiation on the fetus, women in reproductive age need to inform the radiological staff about the potential pregnancy. Then, if possible, X-ray scans will be substituted with another radiological method which does not use ionizing radiation. If the X-ray is still necessary, all possible measures will be undertaken to minimize the dose of ionizing radiation for the fetus.

What does the X-ray scan of the musculoskeletal system look like?

Engineer of medical radiology, an individual educated for performing radiological procedures, will put you in an optimal position for making a scan of a certain part of the body. If necessary, sandbags, tapes or pillows will be put around the certain part of the body to achieve an optimal position for the scan. A radiation apron which contains lead will protect your body (primarily the pelvic, breasts and neck) from radiation.

During the scan you have to be calm and still, and depending on the type of scan, you may be asked to hold your breath like during the X-ray scan to ensure a better-quality picture. Otherwise, it can get cloudy.

During the procedure, the personnel is located outside the room where the patient is undergoing the scan, but are monitoring the patients through a window with protective glass all the time.

Scans of one part of the body is usually done from different projections so two or three scans of the same part of the body is usual. Sometimes it is, because of comparison purposes, necessary to make scans of the healthy side of the body too.

After the procedure is done you will be asked to wait while the engineer of medical radiology checks if the finished scan is good and if all the necessary scans are done.

What to expect during and after the X-ray scan?

Radiological scans of bones is a painless diagnostic method.

You can feel discomfort dune to lower temperatures in the room where the procedure is taking place because the room has to be cooled for the machine to function properly. Furthermore, discomfort may be caused by lying on the hard table of the X-ray machine or the uncomfortable position of the part of the body that is being scanned. Our engineer of medical radiology will help you find the optimal position for your body taking your status and necessary body position into account.

What are the advantages and what are the risks of X-ray scans?


X-ray scan is the fastest and simplest way to see changes on bones and joints which are a consequence of injury, inflammation or some other disease.

X-ray machines are widely available in most health care institutions while an X-ray scan is relatively affordable.

After the X-ray scan, no radiation remains in the patient's body.

An X-ray scan does not disrupt other diagnostic methods.


There is a small risk of cancer caused by increased exposure to X-rays. However, the benefits gained from an X-ray scan outweigh the mentioned risk.

The patient is exposed to the radiation of approximately 0,001 mSv while undergoing one X-ray scan of bones. The yearly dose of radiation from the environment (sun, various radioactive elements in the ground and other) to which we are all exposed is around 3 mSv. Therefore, the effective dose of radiation which the body absorbs during one bone scan is equal to the dose of radiation which the body absorbs from the environment during one day. The equivalent dose of radiation of a spine X-ray is 1,5 mSv which is about the dose of radiation which the body absorbs from the environment in 6 months.

Women who are indicated to do an X-ray scan always have to inform their physician or radiological personnel about the possibility of pregnancy.

Safety during X-ray scans

During X-ray scans special attention is given to reducing the dose of radiation as much as possible to achieve a better result. Radiological societies control and enhance technical standards for procedures used in radiology.

Like with other medical procedures, the use of X-ray radiation is safe when used with care and professionally. The radiological personnel is trained to use as low a dose of radiation as possible to achieve a desired result – a quality X-ray scan. The amount of X-ray radiation which is used is little in comparison to benefits and far outweigh the potential risk.

X-rays are formed and exist only momentarily in the moment when the X-ray machine is turned on. X-rays are not existent after the machine is turned off.

Pregnancy and X-ray scans

Considering the potential harmful effect of ionizing radiation on the fetus, women in reproductive age MUST inform the radiological personnel about the potential pregnancy. Then, if possible, the radiological procedure can be replaced by another radiological method which does not use ionizing radiation (ultrasound, magnetic resonance). If the X-ray scan is necessary, the all the measures will be undertaken to ensure as low as possible radiation dose.

What are the limitations of X-ray scans of bones?

Although the X-ray scans show clearly and in detail the bone and its structure, they give us relatively little data about soft tissue structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.)

Magnetic resonance (MR) is a more useful radiological method in showing the soft tissues: tendon and ligament ruptures, meniscus and cartilage damage, joint effusion, nervous structures of the spine. MR can show bone bruises when there is no visible sign of bone fracture.

Ultrasound diagnostics (US) uses ultrasonic waves instead of ionizing radiation. It is useful in diagnosing superficial soft tissue structures around the bone and joints (ligaments, tendons, joint effusions, joint capsule).

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