A pelvis X-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation
to take a picture of the pelvic bones, which surround the hip area.
During the examination, an X-ray machine sends a beam of radiation through the
pelvis and an image is recorded on special film or a computer. This image shows the
bones of the pelvis, which include the two hip bones, plus the sacrum and the coccyx
The X-ray image is black and white. Dense body parts that block the passage of
the X-ray beam through the body, such as bones, appear white on the X-ray image. Softer
body tissues, such as muscles and fat, allow the X-ray beams to pass through them
and appear darker.
An X-ray technician takes the X-rays in the X-ray department of a hospital or outpatient
radiology center. One to two pictures are usually taken of the pelvis, one with the
legs straight from the front (anteroposterior or AP view) and one with the legs bent
from the side (lateral view). The X-rays are taken while the patient is lying flat
on his or her back.
Why It's Done
A pelvic X-ray can help find the cause of symptoms such as pain, swelling, or deformity
in the pelvic, hip, or upper leg regions, and can detect broken bones after an injury.
If pelvic surgery is required, an X-ray may be taken to plan for the surgery and,
later, to see the results of the operation. Also, pelvic X-rays may detect other problems
such as cysts, tumors, and later-stage infections of the pelvic bones.
This X-ray doesn't require any special preparation. Your child may be asked to
remove some clothing, jewelry, or any metal objects that might interfere with the
If your daughter is pregnant, it's important to tell the X-ray technician or her
doctor. X-rays are usually avoided during pregnancy because there's a small chance
the radiation may harm the developing baby. But if the X-ray is necessary, precautions
can be taken to protect the fetus.
Although the procedure may take 10 minutes or longer from start to finish, actual
exposure to radiation is usually less than a few seconds.
Your child will be asked to enter a special room that will contain a table and
a large X-ray machine hanging from the ceiling or wall. Parents are usually able to
accompany their child to provide reassurance.
If you stay in the room while the X-ray is being done, you'll be asked to wear
a lead apron to protect certain parts of your body. The technician will position your
child on the table, then step behind a wall or into an adjoining room to operate the
Older kids will be asked to stay still for a couple of seconds while the X-ray
is taken; infants may require some gentle restraint. Keeping still is important to
prevent blurring of the X-ray image.
If your child is in the hospital and can't easily be brought to the radiology department,
a portable X-ray machine can be brought to the bedside. Portable X-rays are sometimes
used in emergency departments, intensive care units (ICUs), and operating rooms.
What to Expect
Your child won't feel anything as the X-ray is taken. The X-ray room may feel cool
due to air conditioning used to maintain the equipment.
The positions required for the X-ray can feel uncomfortable, but they need to be
held for only a few seconds. If your child is having pain and can't stay in the required
position, the technician might be able to find another position that's easier. Babies
often cry in the X-ray room, especially if they're restrained, but this won't interfere
with the procedure.
After the X-ray is taken, you and your child will be asked to wait a few minutes
while the image is processed. If it is blurred or unclear, the X-ray may need to be
Getting the Results
The X-ray will be looked at by a radiologist (a doctor who is specially trained
in reading and interpreting X-ray images). The radiologist will send a report to the
doctor, who will discuss the results with you and explain what they mean.
In an emergency, the results of an X-ray can be available quickly. Otherwise, they're
usually ready in 1-2 days. In most cases, results can't be given directly to the patient
or family at the time of the test.
In general, X-rays are very safe. Although there's some risk to the body with any
exposure to radiation, the amount used in a pelvis X-ray is small and not considered
dangerous. It's important to know that radiologists use the minimum amount of radiation
required to get the best results.
Developing babies are more sensitive to radiation and are at more risk for harm,
so if your daughter is pregnant, be sure to tell her doctor and the X-ray technician.
Helping Your Child
You can help your young child prepare for a pelvis X-ray by explaining the test
in simple terms before the procedure. It may help to explain that getting an X-ray
is like posing for a picture.
You can describe the room and the equipment that will be used, and reassure your
child that you'll be right there for support. For older kids, be sure to explain the
importance of keeping still while the X-ray is taken so it won't have to be repeated.
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about why the pelvis X-ray is needed, speak with your doctor.
You can also talk to the X-ray technician before the procedure.