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What Is General Radiography?

General radiography or plain x-ray is the most basic form of medical imaging. It is a quick and painless procedure that produces still images of the structures inside your body and is very helpful in visualising bones and joints.

A general radiography room consists of a long table with an X-ray tube on top of it and a large plate against the wall. There is a light, which will shine from the X-ray tube, to help the radiographer during positioning. The radiographer makes the X-ray exposure from a control panel behind a screen or outside the room.

general_radiography_1Picture 1: A general radiography machine

Source: http://www.southportandormskirk.nhs.uk/news/images/Southport-Digital-x-rayroom.jpg

Plain X-rays can be used to examine most parts of the body such as the

  • Spine – eg cervical spine, lumbar spine
  • Upper and lower limbs – eg knee joint, wrist joint, leg, forearm
  • Skull and facial bones – eg skull, sinuses, jaw, gums
  • Thorax – eg chest, clavicle, rib cage
  • Abdomen and pelvis – eg hip joint, abdomen
general_radiography_2 general_radiography_3

Picture 2: Chest X-ray

Source: www.chestx-ray.com

Picture 3: Lateral lumbar spine X-ray

Source: www.wikiradiography.net


How Can I Get This Examination Done And Where?

  • The doctor you are seeing will decide if you need the examination.
  • If necessary, the doctor will make a request for the examination using ‘Request Form For Radiological Examination’.
  • This examination is available in all hospitals and some health clinics under the Ministry of Health.

When Is A Plain X-ray Requested?

Plain X-rays are requested to help

  • Diagnose pathological processes eg. pneumonia, tuberculosis, arthritis, cancer, infections, etc
  • Diagnose injury eg. bone fractures
  • Locate foreign objects in the body
  • As a routine medical check eg. pre-employment, food handlers

What To Expect

Before the examination

  • You should submit your x-ray request form at the registration counter of the Diagnostic Imaging Department which was formerly known as the X-ray Department.
  • Plain x-rays are done on a walk-in basis during regular hours except for X-ray of the kidney, ureter and bladder (KUB). You may eat and drink as normal before and after the examination.
  • KUB is done by appointment because bowel preparation has to be carried out prior to the X-ray.
  • The radiographer will call and check your identity before taking you into the examination room.
  • Please inform the radiographer if you are or may be pregnant.
  • You may be asked to change into a hospital gown. Jewellery and watches worn in the area to be x-ray may also have to be removed.

During the examination

  • The radiographer will explain the procedure to you.
  • He/she will position your body for the x-ray. You may have to sit, stand or lie depending on the part of the body for x-ray. Some of the positions may be a little uncomfortable but sand bags and foam pads will be used to make it easier for you to maintain the position.
  • You may be asked to keep still or to hold your breath while the X-ray exposure is being made as movement may result in a blur image. Your cooperation can help avoid a repeat examination.
  • A lead shield will be provided for you as long as it does not interfere with the part of your body to be x-ray.
  • The radiographer may make more than one exposure from different angles to obtain the views necessary for diagnosis.

After the examination

  • The radiographer will review the images captured. If adequate, you will be asked to change back into your clothes and allowed to go home. Please ensure that you do not leave any of your belongings behind.
  • Plain X-rays have no side effects and you can resume your daily activity.


The x-ray films will be reviewed and interpreted by a radiologist. The films and report will then be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you on your next visit.


  1. www.chop.edu/general-radiography-x-ray
  2. www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/radiology-neuroradiology/general-radiograph.
  3. www.msmc.com›Medical Services
  4. www.nhs.uk/conditions/X-ray/Pages/Introduction.aspx


Last Reviewed : 25 November 2016
Writer : Azmi Murad bin Taha
Accreditor : Jasintha S. Sangarapillai