A hand X-ray is a black and white image that
shows the inner structures of your hand, such as your bones and soft tissues.
This diagnostic tool can help your doctor locate and understand injuries or
degenerative diseases that affect one or both of your hands. Your doctor can
also use hand X-rays to monitor the growth of bone in your hands. If you have a
nutritional deficiency or metabolic disorder, your bones may not grow properly.
X-rays are taken using radiation. A
technician in the radiology department at a hospital or another medical
facility usually performs X-rays.
Preparing for a Hand X-Ray
Hand X-rays don’t require special
preparation. If you’re wearing rings, bracelets, or a watch, you’ll be asked to
remove them. This will make it easier for the technician to manipulate your
hand into the right position for your X-rays. It will also allow your
radiologist to read your X-rays without mistaking your jewelry for bone
fractures, for example.
You may not be able to remove your jewelry if
you have swelling from a hand injury. The outline of your jewelry will be
visible on your X-ray, but it won’t prevent the technician from taking pictures
of your hand.
Let the technician know if you’re pregnant or
think you may be pregnant. There’s a slight risk that radiation exposure could
damage your fetus. As a precaution, women and children are usually draped with
an apron lined with lead to protect their reproductive organs and developing
You will be asked to place your hand on an
examination table. Stay as still as possible while the X-rays are being taken.
The technician may move your hand into different positions to take a series of pictures.
The X-rays themselves aren’t painful.
However, X-rays are used to diagnose conditions such as bone fractures, tumors,
and arthritis. In some cases, these conditions can create pain during the X-ray
Sometimes you will receive the results of
your X-rays immediately. For example, some injuries, such as a broken wrist, should
be diagnosed and treated quickly. Many modern X-ray machines display the images
on a computer screen as soon as your pictures are taken. Dense objects, such
bones or jewelry, will appear white on the X-ray film. Soft tissues will appear
gray. Air, such as the spaces between your joints, will appear black.
X-rays that are taken to establish growth
patterns or other issues that aren’t time-sensitive are usually read within one
to two days. Your doctor will probably contact you when the results of your
hand X-ray are available.
The risks of radiation exposure during a hand
X-ray are very minimal. You’re exposed to radiation for only about a second
during an X-ray. The benefits of diagnosing injuries and diseases usually
outweigh the risks of brief radiation exposure.
Hand X-rays are a low-risk diagnostic tool.
Your doctor can use them to diagnose or monitor problems with your hands, such
as injuries, degenerative diseases, or improper bone growth. After your doctor
has diagnosed the issue, they will provide a recommended treatment plan. Ask them
for more information about your specific condition, treatment plan, and