Kids Health Info


  • X-rays are able to pass through different tissues of the body to create a digital X-ray image. Having an X-ray does not hurt, but sometimes the position you need to be in for the X-ray can be uncomfortable.

    What is an X-ray?

    Different parts of the body contain different tissues which vary in their absorption of X-rays. When these X-rays pass through the body, they create an image like a "shadow" of the X-ray beam. This means bones, soft tissues and air, for example, can be seen on the X-ray images in black, white and shades of grey. These images of the body are taken by a machine that produces a form of ionising radiation called X-rays. X-rays have properties that allow them to pass through solid objects. The ease with which the X-rays pass through solid objects varies with the energy of the X-rays and the density of the solid object. 

    Most radiographs require the patient to stay very still during the X-ray exposure, but as the image is taken in less than a second, it is usually possible to position the patient and keep them still long enough to take the X-ray.

    For all examinations a family member or carer is encouraged to stay with the child for their comfort and to help them to keep still for their X-ray. The family member or carer may be asked to wear a lead gown for some exams. If the child's female carer is pregnant, she may be asked to leave the room. We shield the carer from the X-ray beam even though the amount of scattered radiation is very small. We do this because the carer is not benefitting from the X-ray examination like the patient. If there is no benefit from the radiation then no exposure is justified.


    Sometimes you will be asked to change into a hospital gown before the X-ray exam. If you would prefer not to wear the hospital gown, a plain T-shirt and leggings are appropriate clothes to wear. Articles of clothing may have to be removed if they contain decoration, metal, glitter, thick elastic, string ties or plastic that may show up on the X-ray images and make important body structures difficult to see. 

    Long hair should be tied up for neck and chest examinations.

    Nappies will be removed for all hip and pelvis examinations. 

    Patients who use a wheelchair may need to be moved onto a special chair for the examination to prevent the metal parts of the wheelchair showing up on the image.

    The actual examination length depends on how many images are required but it may be as little as five minutes.

    If your child has had a distressing experience in the past, Educational Play Therapists are able to assist your child with preparation for the X-ray exam. If you are interested in contacting the Educational Play Therapists about this service, please call the number or follow the link below.

    What should I expect?

    Chest X-ray
    A chest X-ray will generally involve taking one picture. If possible, the child will be imaged sitting or standing.

    Abdominal X-ray
    This examination generally involves one or two pictures. Usually the child lies on an X-ray table, however, sometimes are taken with the child in a sitting or standing position.

    X-rays of limbs (forearm, elbow, knee, ankle, etc)
    This will require pictures of the relevant area in two or more positions, depending on the reasons for the X-ray.

    Skull X-ray
    Up to four different views are usually taken. Parents or carers will need to help hold the head very still.  Sometimes foam blocks are used.

    Skeletal survey
    This involves multiple X-rays of various areas of the body therefore the actual examination length of this procedure ranges from twenty minutes to an hour.


    The images go onto the hospital database and are a report is prepared by a paediatric radiologist. The radiologist usually makes the report on the same day and sends it back to the referring doctor. If the situation is urgent the result is communicated immediately. Non-urgent studies may take a few days for the results to reach the referring doctor.

    Key points to remember

    • X-rays pass through different tissues in the body to create an image.
    • Please read the ‘Preparation’ section for appropriate clothing for your X-ray exam.
    • The family member or carer may be asked to wear a lead gown for some exams, and if the child's mother or carer is pregnant she may be asked to leave the room.

    More information

    For further information please contact the Medical Imaging staff on 9345 5255.

    Information about preparation for Medical Imaging procedures: Educational Play Therapy 

    Chest x-ray

    Chest x-ray


How did you like this fact sheet?
Click here to do a short RCH survey.

Kids Health Info app

The app will enable you to search and browse more than three hundred medical fact sheets and work offline.

Apple store Google play

This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.