X-ray

X-rays are a form of radiation that pass through the body, bones, soft tissues and air. The X-rays are absorbed by different parts of the body in different amounts depending on how dense they are. For instance, bone is more dense than soft tissue, so it shows up on the X-ray images as a bright white colour, whereas the less dense soft tissue appears as shades of grey and black.

Having an X-ray does not hurt, but in some cases, your child may need to be in an uncomfortable position depending on which part of their body needs to be X-rayed. They will also need to remain still while the X-ray image is being taken.

Watch the video below to find out more about what it’s like to have an X-ray at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

Why does my child need an X-ray?

X-rays are performed for many different reasons, including to:

    • see if different organs in the body are healthy
    • check for fractures or broken bones
    • diagnose, treat and manage diseases
    • check the location of swallowed foreign bodies (e.g. if your child has swallowed a coin).

What to expect

We may ask your child to change into a hospital gown before their X-ray. If they would prefer not to wear the hospital gown, it may be possible to perform the X-ray in their normal clothes. We recommend that your child wears a plain T-shirt and shorts/leggings to their appointment, just in case. It is also important to make sure that your child has removed all jewellery and other items of clothing that have decoration, metal, glitter, thick elastic, string ties or plastic. These can show up on the X-ray images and make important parts of the body difficult to see.

If your child uses a wheelchair, they may need to be moved onto a special chair during their X-ray. The special chair prevents the metal parts of the wheelchair showing up on the X-ray images.

It is a good idea to tie up long hair, particularly for neck and chest examinations. If your child is in nappies this will also need to be removed if they are having their hip or pelvis X-rayed.

We recommend that you, another family member or carer stays with your child during their examination. This can help ease any anxiety your child might have about the procedure and also helps them to keep still while their X-rays are being taken. Please note that pregnant women are not allowed to be in the examination room while the X-rays are being taken. For this reason, you may wish to have a second parent or carer attend the appointment with you if you are pregnant.

In most cases, an X-ray examination takes between five and ten minutes. Please keep in mind that this can vary depending on how many images need to be taken.

The requirements for your child’s X-ray will depend on the body part that is being examined:

Chest X-ray

One picture is normally taken during a chest X-ray. If possible, we will position your child either sitting up or standing during this type of examination.

Abdominal X-ray

One or two pictures are normally taken during an abdominal X-ray. We will normally position your child lying down on the X-ray table, however, in some cases they may need to sit up or stand instead.

X-rays of limbs (e.g. forearm, elbow, knee, ankle)

When X-raying limbs, we will normally need to take pictures of the relevant area in two or more different positions. This will depend on the reason the X-ray is being taken.

Skull X-ray

Up to four different pictures are normally taken during a skull X-ray. We will often ask you, or another parent/carer, to help hold your child’s head very still during this type of examination. Foam blocks are also sometimes used to keep the head still when it is not safe for a parent or carer to being in the examination room.

Skeletal survey

Multiple X-rays of various areas of the body are taken during a skeletal survey. Because so many images need to be taken, this type of examination can be longer than others, ranging from 20 minutes to an hour.

Your child will be able to go home straight after their X-ray or visit the referring clinic if needed.

Your radiologist will then create a report about your child’s X-ray results and send it to their referring doctor. In non-urgent cases, it may take a few days for the results to become available. In urgent cases, your doctor may request to have the results to them immediately.

This service is available at

Medical Imaging and Nuclear Medicine (1a)
Queensland Children’s Hospital

Level 1
501 Stanley Street
South Brisbane
QLD 4101
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Contact details

t: 07 3068 3100  |  07 3068 1111 (after hours via hospital switchboard)

Operating hours

Monday to Friday, 8am–5pm.

An after-hours X-ray services are also available at the Emergency Department (Level 1), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.