What Does An X-Ray Technician Do?

X-ray technicians are healthcare professionals who know how to operate x-ray machines that can get inside images of the human body. Also known as radiologic technicians, they can manipulate other types of imaging equipment such as computed tomography (CT) scanners and mammography equipment. Through x-ray tests, doctors are able to diagnose if a patient has bone fractures and other abnormalities, joint problems like osteoarthritis, some heart conditions, tumors of the lungs and breasts and fluid collections in the lungs and gut.

CT scans an check for brain tumors and arterial swelling, tumors of the internal organs, vascular flow abnormalities and spinal injuries. CT scans are also ordered to prepare for radiotherapy treatment and to serve as guide in needle biopsy procedures. Mammograms are used to take images of the breast to check for the presence of tumors. Mammography equipment utilize x-ray systems but at lower dose to get these images. Radiologic technicians are integral in helping doctors diagnose various diseases so that the latter can come up with appropriate treatment plans.

When a patient is brought in for imaging, the x-ray technician looks at the doctor’s orders to determine what part of the body will be x-rayed. This is very important because there are different types of x-ray procedures to be observed depending on the body part to be imaged. Chest x-rays are common and simply involves letting the patient stand in front of a plate that contains the x-ray film. Other x-ray procedures for other body parts may require the technician to give a contrast dye to be taken or injected to the patient. There are also other procedures that require the patient to fast for a certain number of hours or move his bowels beforehand. In these cases, the x-ray technician will inform the patient of the required preparation they will need to undertake before the test can be done.

The x-ray technician also sees to it that the patient is at ease with the procedure. They talk with the patient and obtains their medical history and records these accordingly. An X-ray technician will also answer any questions that the patient has about the imaging process.

When a patient is ready to be x-rayed, the radiologic technician will ask that all jewelry like necklaces, earrings and bracelets and other metallic objects be taken off. He will then require that the patient change into a hospital gown and stand, sit or lie down on the bed depending on the x-ray procedure to be done. In some cases, the patient may be asked to move in various positions in order to get a better image. This can be a bit painful for those who are suffering from fractures or broken bones. Immediately before the x-ray is fired, the x-ray technician will ask the patient to hold his breath so that clear images are taken.

Once the x-ray results are released, the x-ray technician may confer with the doctor who ordered the procedure to check if the images are what he needs. If re-imaging is necessary, the x-ray technician will perform the procedure again at different angles.

Unless absolutely necessary, pregnant mothers should not get x-rays because there is a chance that the unborn fetus might develop an abnormality due to the radiation exposure. There are times when a doctor does order an x-ray on pregnant women to diagnose certain conditions. At these times, x-ray technicians must carefully follow proper shielding procedures, such as putting an abdominal lead shield over the belly to protect the fetus from exposure.

X-ray technicians are responsible for ensuring that the imaging equipment is cleaned and well-maintained. If they notice that the equipment is in need of fixing, they will coordinate with a medical equipment repairer to address the issue right away. X-ray technicians must also take the necessary steps to protect themselves as they do their jobs every day. This is because exposure to frequent x-rays has been linked to various cancers.

They have to strictly implement the safety protocols established by the healthcare setting they are working in to keep their radiation exposure as low as possible. A common practice is staying behind lead walls as they take the x-ray to keep themselves protected from radiation.

Career Spotlight: X-ray Technician

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