What is a knee X-ray? 

The knee X-ray is an imaging test that is used to take pictures of a person’s knee joint and the surrounding area.

In an X-ray imaging procedure, a short burst of radiation is passed through the part to be examined and the images are recorded on an X-ray film or image recording plate.

Bones absorb most of the X-rays and appear white on the X-ray image. Soft tissues, such as muscles and fat, allow most of the X-rays to pass through them and appear in shades of grey.

A knee X-ray is a quick and painless test to view the bones in the knee joint and detect problems, such as fractures (broken bones) and joint abnormalities.

  1. Who cannot get a knee X-ray done?
  2. Why is a knee X-ray done?
  3. How should I prepare for a knee X-ray?
  4. What is the procedure of a knee X-ray?
  5. How does a knee X-ray feel?
  6. What do the results of a knee X-ray mean?
  7. What are the risks and benefits of the knee X-ray?
  8. What happens after the knee X-ray?
  9. What other tests can be done with the knee X-ray?
  10. Doctors for Knee X-ray

X-rays are usually avoided in pregnant women, as the radiation poses a slight risk of harm to the developing fetus.

The knee X-ray helps to find the cause of symptoms in the knee, such as: 

An X-ray is commonly ordered to diagnose:

  • Fractured bones
  • Dislocated joint

The doctor may also order an X-ray once a broken bone has been set to check if the bone is aligned properly and healing well. 

An X-ray may be performed before planning a knee surgery and to check the results after the operation. 

A knee X-ray can help detect infection, arthritis (inflamed joint), tumours and other diseases of the knee.

An X-ray may also be performed to locate foreign objects lodged in or around the knee joint.

No special preparations are needed for a knee X-ray. Inform your doctor beforehand about any problems you may have had in the past while having an X-ray.

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, then you must convey this to your doctor before the X-ray.

(Read more: Family planning)

The procedure for the knee X-ray is as follows:

  • The technician will ask you to remove any jewellery or metal objects that might interfere with the test. 
  • If you are asked to remove some of your clothing, you will be provided with a hospital gown, which you can wear while the test is being performed.
  • The technician will position you appropriately either on an X-ray table or standing. 
  • They will then operate the machine from behind a wall or an adjoining room.
  • You will be advised to hold very still when the images are taken.
  • The technician may reposition your leg to take more images.
  • The test is usually completed in five to 10 minutes.

(Read more: Knee Pain)

Typically, three X-rays are taken:

  • From the front
  • From the side
  • With the knee bent

In some cases, the doctor may also do an X-ray of the unaffected knee for comparison.

You may feel slightly uncomfortable from the cold temperature in the examination room. 

The X-ray procedure is painless. However, holding still in the positions required for the X-rays may feel uncomfortable, especially if you have had an injury. The technician might be able to help you in finding an easier position while still ensuring good image quality.

X-rays can detect conditions of the knee, such as:

  • Fracture
  • Arthritis
  • Infection
  • Joint dislocation
  • Presence of excess fluid in or around the knee
  • Improper alignment of the knee joint
  • Abnormalities in the bone structure
  • Bone cysts (fluid-filled spaces)
  • Abnormal bone growths
  • Bone tumours
  • Bone cancer
  • Changes in the bone in certain metabolic disorders

The benefits of an X-ray are:

  • Quick and easy way of diagnosing bone injuries and joint abnormalities
  • Readily available in most healthcare facilities
  • Useful for emergency diagnosis
  • No side effects when used in the safe diagnostic range
  • No radiation remains in the body after the procedure is done

(Read more: Swollen knee)

The risks associated with X-rays are:

  • Slight risk of cancer due to exposure to radiation
  • Risk of harm to the developing baby during pregnancy

After the test is completed, the images of the X-ray will be read and interpreted by a radiologist. The reports will be sent to your doctor who will convey them to you.

After the X-ray is done, the doctor may ask you to wait for a few minutes until the doctor can make sure that the images obtained are not blurred. If the images are blurred, the test may need to be repeated.

(Read more: Knee Sprain)

 Depending on the condition suspected, other tests that may be performed include:

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

Dr. Rachita Gupta

Dr. Rachita Gupta

12 Years of Experience

Dr. Tejinder Kataria

Dr. Tejinder Kataria

35 Years of Experience

Dr. Shyam Singh Bisht

Dr. Shyam Singh Bisht

17 Years of Experience

Dr. Shikha Goyal

Dr. Shikha Goyal

18 Years of Experience

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