Radiographs or X-rays are widely used in veterinary medicine to help identify or rule out suspected causes for disease. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words and this is also true of radiographs. A good working knowledge of the normal radiographic anatomy is helpful when interpreting normal from abnormal organ structures.

Radiographs are similar to photographs in that energy (light or x-rays) is needed to excite the chemicals in the film to create an image. In the case of radiographs, x-rays penetrate through most objects and strike the film held in a cassette. This film is then processed through a developer, followed by a rinse, and finally into a fixer bath just as photographs are done.

Radiographs are displayed by projecting a light behind the film to illustrate the different contrasts of black, white and shades of gray. The more dense an object is the more x-rays are blocked from the film. Thus certain objects such as bones will show up as white structures while air shows up as a black area after the film is processed. This is similar to looking at a black and white negative. Only the length and width of an object, and not the depth, can be seen on a radiograph.

All radiographs are subject to interpretation. There are experts in veterinary medicine that specialize in reading radiographs. If you are concerned that the interpretation of a radiograph may not be accurate ask your veterinarian to explain it to you again or have it referred to a specialist. There may be a fee for this service.

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