A hand x-ray is taken in a hospital radiology department or your health care provider's office by an x-ray technician. You will be asked to place your hand on the x-ray table, and keep it very still as the picture is being taken. You may need to change the position of your hand, so more images can be taken.
How to Prepare for the Test
Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant. Remove all jewelry from your hand and wrist.
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, foreign objects, or degenerative conditions of the hand. Hand x-rays may also be done to find out a child's "bone age." This can help determine if a health problem is preventing the child from growing properly.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may include fractures, bone tumors, degenerative bone conditions, and osteomyelitis (inflammation of the bone caused by an infection).
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.
Campbell RSD, Dunn AJ, McNally E, Daghir A. Internal derangements of joints: upper and lower limbs. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 46.
C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.