Preparation For Upper & Lower Extremity X-Ray

Submitted on March 27, 2012

An extremity x-ray is an x-ray of any extremity of the human body. An extremity x-ray will include an x-ray image of the fingers, hands, wrists, ankles, foot or toes.

An x-ray image of any part of the body is taken using x-rays - a type of radiation that is able to pass through the body. Denser areas, such as bones will appear white, while areas of lesser density such as muscles and organs will appear as shades of grey. This makes x-rays a useful tool in creating images of different areas of the body. Doctors use x-rays as a diagnostic tool for a variety of medical conditions including fractures, bone disorders and lung disorders.

Extremity x-rays like all x-rays are usually performed in the radiology department of a hospital or in a health care provider’s clinic.

The test is usually conducted by an x-ray technologist. You will be asked to place the part that is being x-rayed on the table. The position in which you place your hand or foot will be determined by the specific view required by your doctor. Once the x-ray image has been taken, you may be asked to change the position of your hand or foot so that another view can be taken.

Preparing for the Test

  • You should inform your doctor beforehand if you are pregnant. This is important as x-rays, while usually safe, can have an adverse effect on the health of your fetus.
  • It is suggested that you take along some reading matter to keep yourself occupied while you wait your turn.
  • The procedure will itself take from 10 to 15 minutes depending on the number of different views that your doctor has ordered.
  • Metallic objects like wristwatches, bracelets and rings will have to be kept clear of the area which is about to be imaged.

X-rays of the extremities are usually ordered to diagnose fractures, dislocations, tumors or certain conditions such as osteomyelitis or clubfoot in the hands, feet or wrists. They may also be used to detect the presence of foreign bodies in the extremities.

Upper extremity x-rays are those which deal with the upper extremities such as the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, forearms, upper arms or shoulders. Lower extremity x-rays are those that deal with the lower extremities including the toes, feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, upper legs and hips.

They are usually ordered when the doctor suspects an injury to the extremity such as a fracture or a dislocation, a swelling in the joints that may be caused by a sprain or an inflammatory condition such as arthritis, a degenerative condition affecting the bones such as osteoporosis or any other condition that may cause pain and swelling.

After the x-ray images have been taken, they will be studied by a radiologist - a doctor who specializes in all types of imagery. Your doctor will receive the results of the scan within a period of forty-eight hours. Your doctor can then discuss the results of the test and the diagnosis and treatment options with you.

The CPT (current procedural terminology) code for an x-ray will depend on the type of x-ray and the number of views that are required. For example, the CPT code for a minimum of 2 views of a finger or fingers is 73140. These codes are numbers assigned to every task and service that a doctor may provide to a patient, and is used by insurers to calculate the amount to be reimbursed to the patient.