5 Different Types of Radiography

Mar 18, 2024 7:02:45 AM / by Chad Hutchison

Radiography represents a pillar of medical diagnostics, offering diverse techniques to view and analyze the body’s internal structures. Today, we’ll delve into five significant types of radiography, each serving unique diagnostic purposes. From revealing bone fractures to uncovering soft tissue conditions, these methods provide essential insights that aid in accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Understanding the different types of radiography empowers healthcare professionals to select the most appropriate imaging for various medical scenarios. 

What Is an X-Ray?

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation, fundamentally similar to visible light but with significantly higher energy. They can penetrate various materials, including within the human body, so they’re extensively used in medical imaging.

When X-rays pass through the body, they’re absorbed in varying amounts by different tissues based on density. For instance, bones absorb more X-rays than soft tissues, creating a contrast that is captured on an X-ray film or digital detector. This contrast enables radiologists to interpret the images and provide diagnostic information.

X-rays are quick and non-invasive, offering a vital tool in medical diagnostics to detect, monitor, and treat numerous medical conditions. However, they involve exposure to ionizing radiation, necessitating careful consideration and optimization of the dosage used during each examination to minimize potential risks.

What Are the Different Types of X-Rays?

While there are numerous types of radiographic tests, we’ll focus on five common and crucial methods. Each type offers unique insights, aiding healthcare professionals in diagnosing and treating various conditions. While not an exhaustive list, this highlights significant radiographic techniques that have transformed medical diagnostics and continue to dominate the field today.

Plain X-Ray

Plain X-ray, or conventional radiography, is the most basic and widely employed form of medical imaging. It involves a single burst of X-ray radiation passing through the body to create a two-dimensional image of the examined area. This method is particularly effective for examining bones, detecting fractures, and identifying pathological lung changes. The speed and simplicity of plain X-rays make them invaluable in emergency diagnostics, routine check-ups, and guiding orthopedic treatments and surgeries.

Computed Tomography (CT)

Computed Tomography (CT), also known as a CAT scan, is an advanced radiographic technique that combines multiple X-ray images taken from different angles to create cross-sectional views of the body. This allows for a more detailed examination of various structures, including bones, muscles, fat, organs, and blood vessels. CT scans are instrumental in detecting internal injuries, tumors, blood clots, and infections. They provide invaluable information for planning surgeries, guiding biopsies, and assessing the effectiveness of treatments.


Fluoroscopy is a type of medical imaging that provides a continuous X-ray image on a monitor, much like an X-ray movie. This dynamic technique is particularly useful for guiding various diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in real time. It allows healthcare professionals to observe the movement of internal organs, instruments, or contrast agents through the body. Fluoroscopy is commonly used in gastrointestinal studies, catheter insertion, angiography, and orthopedic surgery. Despite its benefits, it’s especially crucial to use fluoroscopy judiciously due to the continuous exposure to X-rays.


Mammography is a specialized type of X-ray imaging specifically designed to examine breast tissue. It uses low-dose X-rays to create detailed images of the inside of the breasts, aiding in the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. Mammography can identify tumors that are too small to be felt and can detect microcalcifications that may indicate the presence of breast cancer. Regular screening mammograms are recommended for women at certain ages or with risk factors for breast cancer, as early detection significantly increases treatment success rates.


Angiography is a specialized type of medical imaging that uses X-rays to visualize the inside of blood vessels and organs, particularly the arteries, veins, and heart chambers. This procedure is essential for diagnosing and evaluating various conditions, such as blockages, malformations, or abnormalities in the blood vessels. During an angiography, a contrast agent is injected into the bloodstream to make the blood vessels visible on the X-ray images. The technique is crucial for planning interventions like stenting or angioplasty and is widely used in cardiology, neurology, and vascular surgery. By providing detailed images of how blood flows through the vessels, angiography plays a vital role in the management and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. 

What Are X-Rays Commonly Used For?

X-rays are a cornerstone of medical diagnostics, providing critical insights that guide healthcare professionals in numerous fields. These versatile imaging techniques detect and monitor a range of diseases and injuries, helping to determine the best course of treatment. Here are some of the key applications of X-rays in various medical disciplines, showcasing their broad utility in healthcare.

  • Dental: Dental X-rays are indispensable for detecting cavities, monitoring teeth development, and assessing oral health, aiding in the prevention and treatment of dental issues.
  • Orthopedic: X-rays are vital in orthopedics, and they are used to diagnose bone fractures, joint disorders, and spine conditions, offering a clear picture of bone health and alignment.
  • Chiropractic: Chiropractors utilize X-rays to examine the spine and joints, identifying misalignments and other issues to inform treatment plans.
  • Chest Imaging: Used to diagnose and monitor conditions affecting the chest, including lung infections, heart enlargement, and tumors.
  • Mammography: Critical for early detection of breast cancer, mammograms use X-rays to identify tumors and calcifications.
  • Podiatry: In podiatry, X-rays are essential for assessing the bones of the foot and ankle and diagnosing fractures, deformities, arthritis, and other conditions affecting the lower extremities.

How Should You Prepare for an X-Ray?

Preparing for an X-ray is straightforward, but following these steps can help ensure X-ray examinations are performed smoothly and the results are as accurate as possible:

  1. Clothing: Wear loose, comfortable clothing free of metal zippers, buttons, or snaps that could interfere with the image. Be prepared to change into a hospital gown.
  2. Jewelry and Metal Objects: Remove all jewelry and metal objects, as these can affect the clarity of the X-ray images. 
  3. Inform Your Doctor: Discuss any recent illnesses, medical conditions, or the possibility of pregnancy with your healthcare provider.
  4. Contrast Material: If your X-ray requires a contrast medium, you may be instructed to fast for a specific period before the test.
  5. Follow Instructions: Specialized X-rays may have unique preparation requirements. Always follow the detailed instructions your healthcare team provides, and ensure you understand the importance of each request.

By adhering to these steps, you can contribute to the accuracy and efficiency of your X-ray procedure, facilitating better diagnostic outcomes. 

What Are the Risks of X-Rays?

While X-rays are invaluable diagnostic tools, they involve exposure to ionizing radiation, which, if not managed carefully, can pose health risks. The amount of radiation from a single X-ray is generally low, but excessive exposure over time can increase the risk of developing cancer.

For this reason, medical professionals adhere to the ALARA principle (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) to minimize exposure. Pregnant women or those who might be pregnant should inform their healthcare provider, as X-rays can be harmful to the developing fetus.

Despite these risks, the clinical benefits of X-rays often outweigh the potential drawbacks when used appropriately under professional guidance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Types of Radiography Are There?

Numerous types of radiography exist, each tailored to specific diagnostic needs. These include conventional plain X-rays, computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, mammography, and angiography, among others. The exact number continues to evolve with advancements in medical imaging technology.

What Is the Most Common Radiography?

The most common type of radiography is the conventional plain X-ray, also known as radiography. It’s widely used for its efficiency, accessibility, and effectiveness in providing vital information across various medical fields, including orthopedics, dentistry, and chest imaging.

Final Thoughts

X-ray technology remains a cornerstone in medical diagnostics, offering critical insights that guide healthcare decisions. Understanding these processes is key whether you’re a practitioner seeking to enhance diagnostic capabilities or a patient preparing for an X-ray. 

If you’re looking to upgrade or acquire new radiology and medical imaging equipment, we’re here to help every step of the way. Explore our selection of top-tier X-ray and imaging solutions to support your healthcare services. Connect with Maven Imaging today to discover how we can enhance your diagnostic precision and improve patient care! 

Tags: radiography

Chad Hutchison

Written by Chad Hutchison

Founder and CEO of Maven Imaging, Chad Hutchison has been in the medical imaging equipment market since 2003. As his business grew, he pioneered buying and selling medical equipment online and eventually began offering leasing and financing to meet market demands and help customers. His market expertise goes beyond traditional medical imaging and finance support, as he’s spearheading cloud-based lending solutions for vendors across the sector.