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X-rays use high energy rays to take a picture of the inside of your body. There are many different reasons why people need x-rays.
You can eat and drink normally before most x-rays - except for barium x-rays, which look at the stomach and bowel. Don't worry - you’ll be told when you can last eat before a barium x-ray.
X-rays are painless. The type of x-ray you need will depend on which part of your body needs to be looked at:
A chest x-ray is usually carried out to look at the lungs. It may be done to check for infection or to look for a tumour.
Bone x-rays can find out if a bone is broken, infected, has thinned or is affected by a cancer.
A barium x-ray uses x-rays to look at the inside of your bowel and stomach. There are two types of barium x-ray:
If the x-ray is of your stomach, then you’ll need to have a drink of barium. This is called a barium swallow. The barium is radio-opaque, which means that it shows up on the x-ray. Because it’s a liquid, it can show all the ins and outs of your digestive system.
If the x-ray is of your bowel, you'll need a barium enema. This is when the barium is put into the bowel through your back passage, to show the bowel.
Content last reviewed: 1 November 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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