X-rays are painless, noninvasive, quick medical tests that produce images of your body to help physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. We use X-rays to detect fractured or broken bones, spot foreign objects in soft tissue (such as a tumor in the lungs) or locate infection. If your doctor recommends an X-ray to aid in diagnosing your condition, you can get a convenient walk-in exam at any of our radiology locations. To take advantage of walk-in services, you must bring a referral order from your physician.
How X-rays Work
X-rays use a small dose of ionizing radiation, which passes through the body and records an image. Images produced by X-rays vary due to the different absorption rates of different tissues. Calcium in bones absorbs X-rays the most, so bones look white on an X-ray image, soft tissue will appear in shades of gray and air appears black. Two specialized types of X-rays include:
- GU (genitourinary) exams are X-rays of the urinary tract system (kidney, ureter and bladder).
- GI (gastrointestinal) exams are X-rays of the upper and lower digestive system. The upper GI looks at the esophagus and stomach. The small bowel series looks at the small intestine. The barium enema looks at the colon.
X-ray Exams: Why Choose Us?
When you come to the Washington University Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, you will find:
- Advanced technology: Barnes-Jewish Hospital is in the process of converting all of our X-ray equipment to advanced digital radiography (DR). This technology produces a clear, digital image that’s available to view immediately and then transferred and stored electronically. DR X-rays also enable us to use the lowest doses of radiation possible, making them safer for patients.
- Experienced staff: The radiologist technologists who perform X-rays at Barnes-Jewish Hospital are all registered through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), the gold standard in certification.
- Convenient, walk-in services (with order): In the Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM) there are walk-in X-ray services available on the:
- 2nd Floor (GI/GU X-rays)
- 3rd floor (chest X-rays)
- 6th floor (general X-rays)
- 8th floor (chest X-rays)
- 12th floor (orthopedic X-rays)
- Walk-in X-rays are also available at the Highlands location
- Specialized treatments: Our GI and GU X-ray teams work closely with the hospital’s speech therapists to perform swallowing assessment tests on stroke patients. The real-time imaging allows for accurate diagnosis and targeted treatment and therapy. These exams are done on the second floor of the Center for Advanced Medicine.
X-ray Exams: What to Expect
Here’s what you can expect when you come in for your X-ray exam:
- Getting ready: A technologist specially trained to perform X-ray exams will position you on a table or place you in front of the machine.
- Holding still: You will be asked to hold very still for a few seconds while we take the X-ray. The technologist will walk behind a wall or into the next room and activate the machine. We may reposition you for another view. A general X-ray is usually completed in 5 to 10 minutes.
- After the procedure: We will ask you to wait until the medical imaging technologist determines that we have obtained all the required images.
- Contrast: Some GI/GU exams require a contrast to make parts of your body display more clearly. For small bowel series and barium enema exams, we use barium or another substance that dissolves in water as the contrast. For GU exams, a contrast is generally administered through a catheter.
- Allergies: Report any unusual symptoms you experience after you receive the contrast to the technologist immediately. Those with known allergies to contrast need to be especially careful in informing their referring physician’s office before scheduling a GI/GU exam. Always inform the physician and technologist of any allergies.
Preparing for Your X-ray Appointment
Before you come in for an X-ray, please follow this checklist:
- Bring these documents with you to your appointment:
- A photo ID (driver’s license or state ID)
- Insurance card(s)
- A list of your medications
- Any X-ray orders from your physician
- Preparation: Most general X-rays require no special preparation, so you may eat, drink and take your medications normally beforehand. For an upper GI, small bowel series or barium swallow exam you should not smoke, eat or drink after midnight prior to your appointment. For a barium enema, you will need to purchase a “prep kit.” Your referring physician’s office will give you step-by-step instructions for preparing for your exam.
- Remove jewelry: We may ask you to change into a gown and to remove jewelry, glasses or metal objects that could interfere with the X-ray.
- Pregnancy: Women should always inform their physician or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility they are pregnant. We take extra precautions during pregnancy so as not to expose the baby to radiation.
New patients: To schedule an appointment, please call 314.362.7111 or toll free at 877.992.7111. Please note: You or your referring physician will need to provide a referral order before your appointment.
Current X-ray patients: Please call the X-ray department at 314.362.7110 with any questions about your X-ray. Get all the patient information you need, including additional contact information and maps to our locations.