Hand X-ray

Alternative names 
X-ray - hand

Definition

A hand X-ray is an examination involving images of one or both hands.

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation like light, but of higher energy, so they can penetrate the body to form an image on film. Structures that are dense (such as bone) will appear white, air will be black, and other structures will be shades of gray.

How the test is performed
The test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider’s office by an X-ray technician. You will be asked to position the hand to be X-rayed on the table. The pictures are then taken, repositioning the hand for different views.

How to prepare for the test
Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.

Infants and children:
The physical and psychological preparation you can provide for this or any test or procedure depends on your child’s age, interests, previous experiences, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics as they correspond to your child’s age:

     
  • Infant test or procedure preparation (birth to 1 year)  
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation (1 to 3 years)  
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation (3 to 6 years)  
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation (6 to 12 years)  
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation (12 to 18 years)

How the test will feel
Generally, there is little or no discomfort associated with X-rays.

Why the test is performed
Hand X-ray is used to detect fractures, tumors, or degenerative conditions of the hand. Hand X-rays may also be performed to assist in determining the “bone-age” of a child in order to determine if metabolic or nutritional disorders are interfering with proper growth.

What abnormal results mean
Abnormal results may include fractures, bone tumors, degenerative bone conditions, and osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone caused by an infection).

What the risks are
There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of X-rays.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.