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Pelvis x ray: Purpose, preparation & Procedure

What is a pelvis x-ray and how does it work?

A pelvis x-ray is an imaging procedure that produces photos of the pelvic areas. These images can help doctors diagnose a variety of conditions that occur in the hip region.

During the scan, a small amount of radiation and electromagnetic energy beams are sent to the area which show bones, organs and internal tissues. These images are produced by showing light and dark areas. Dense matter, like bones, doesn’t let the beams through, so these areas show as grey or white on the scan. Whereas, soft tissues will show up as grey or darker because the beam can penetrate through the matter.

A pelvis x-ray will allow a radiographer or doctor to spot different ailments. For example, if there’s a break in the bone then light will seep through in the x-ray and highlight where the injury is. X-rays are also able to show abnormal matter, which may represent a tumour.

Pelvic x-rays are almost always ordered after a patient visits a doctor about their condition. After conducting a physical exam and hearing the patient’s symptoms, a doctor will decide whether an X-ray is necessary.

X-rays are a very common procedures that’s often used to detect a broken or fractured bone. If a doctor initially assumes a soft-tissue related ailment, they may skip an X-ray and order a pelvic MRI straight away.

Why might you need a pelvis x-ray?

As mentioned above, a pelvic x-ray is usually conducted by a doctors orders. So, a patient should have already seen a general physician about their symptoms. If a patient is experiencing any of the following issues, a doctor may order a pelvic x-ray.

  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • If you’ve been involved in an injury that affects the pelvis
  • If a condition like Scoliosis or arthritis is suspected
  • Stiffness of the spine or hips
  • Swelling in the pelvis, hip or upper regions
  • Stiffness of the sacroiliac joint

Below are a number of conditions that a pelvis x-ray can help diagnose.

  • Broken pelvic bones
  • Pelvic fractures
  • Femoral neck fracture
  • Break or fracture of the proximal femur
  • Arthritis
  • Separation of the pubic symphysis
  • Inferior pubic rami fractures
  • Femoral head break
  • Infections
  • Sacroiliitis
  • Bone spurs
  • Acetabular fractures
  • Break of fracture of the iliac crest
  • Break or fracture of the pubic bones
  • Femoral neck fractures
  • Degenerative conditions of bones
  • Anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) avulsion
  • Anterior inferior iliac spine (AIIS) avulsion
  • Ankylosing spondylitis 
  • Abnormalities of bones in the pelvic region
  • Tumours of the pelvic region
  • Indications of Avascular necrosis (death of tissue in the hip joint)

How to prepare for your pelvis x-ray

If a doctor has ordered for you to have a pelvic x-ray then there’s not a lot you need to do to prepare, as the scan is considered a non invasive procedure. Unlike a pelvic ultrasound, you won’t be instructed by a doctor to drink four to six glasses of water one hour before your test. During an ultrasound this is done because a full bladder moves the intestines aside, so that the doctor can get a better view of the pelvic area. However, an x-ray generally focus on bones and joints, as images of the soft tissue aren’t very detailed in an x-ray.

When you’re about the have your scan, the technician or radiologist will ask you to remove all metal objects on your body, so it’s a good idea to take these off before going to your appointment. This is because metal objects will obstruct the imaging test and will block photos, so a technician won’t be able to see the bones and soft tissues in that area.

This includes things like jewellery, piercings and belt buckles. Some body makeup or moisturisers can help tiny particles of metal in them, too. So, you should skip using any lotion before your appointment. If you have any permanently implanted medical devices, like pins or plates for a broken bone, then you should let your technician know about these before they conduct the scan.

What to expect from your pelvis x-ray

During the scan

When you arrive for your appointment, a nurse or employee will take you into the room where you’ll have your x-ray. If you haven’t already removed all metal objects, you’ll be asked to do so now.

A pelvis x-ray will generally require the patient to change into a hospital gown, you will be given this and given time to change our of you clothes and into the gown.

Once you’ve changed, a technician will ask you to lie on an exam table, and they will help to position you so that you’re lying correctly for the beam to capture images of your injury. Sometimes, they’ll place a led blanket over areas that they don’t’ need to capture, as this will block the radiation.

The technician will then go into a separate room or behind a screen. Here they will ask you to lay perfectly still so that they can start the scan. It’s very important that you don’t move at all, as even the slightest movement can blur photos.

Depending on your specific issue, the technician may readjust you into some other positions so that they can capture images of different ares of the pelvis areas.

Once the x-ray is finished, you’ll likely be asked to wait a few moments while the technician checks that there’s no blurring in the images. After this, you can get dressed back into your clothes and leave the scan.

After the scan

An X-ray is a non-invasive procedure, so you should be able to continue about your day after the scan is completed. If you noticed any allergic reactions whatsoever, like hives or a rash, you should let a doctor know immediately.

X-ray results are usually available in 1-2 days after the scan takes place. However, if the doctor deems your condition urgent, they may speed up the process. Once the scans are back, a doctor will call you in for an appointment to discuss the findings .

What are the benefits of a pelvis x-ray?

Below are some reasons why pelvis x-rays are commonly used.

  • They are very useful in detecting a number of conditions, and are an easy and an effective way to determine if you have a broken bone or fracture.

  • They are relatively cheap, in comparison to a CT scan or a magnetic resonance imaging test.

  • X rays are very quick, in many cases your results will be available the same day.

  • X rays are non invasive and painless.


Are pelvis x-rays harmful to my health?

Contrary to what many people believe, x-rays are actually have very low radiation exposure. People actually already have radiation exposure in their every day life. In fact, the radiation exposure in a hand x-ray is the equivalent amount of radiation an average human (who didn’t have an x ray) would be exposed to over a 10 day period.

How long does a pelvis x-ray take?

A pelvis x-ray is a quick process, and the scan itself should only take a matter of minutes. However, the entire appointment – including the time it takes for your technician to speak with you about the x-ray, and changing into the gown – will normally take about 30-45 minutes.

What does hip and pelvis x-ray show?

Hip and pelvis x-rays are used for doctors to see images of the bones and joints, but they can also show pictures of soft tissues, like organs. However, the images that are produced of soft tissues aren’t very detailed in an x-ray. If your doctor suspects a condition that’s related to your soft tissue, they will likely order an X-ray afterwards. If the physician assumes a soft tissue related issue in the initial appointment, they may skip an x-ray altogether, and order a MRI straight away.

Can I drink and eat before a pelvis x-ray?

Yes. Eating or drinking generally won’t affect the x-ray. A common misconception is that a doctor will instruct you to drink four to six glasses of water one hour before your test, however this only applies to pelvic ultrasounds, not pelvic x-rays. Keep in mind that whether you’re allowed to eat or drink before an x-ray may vary depending on who your doctor is, so it’s best to check directly with your doctor whether you should eat or drink before your scan.

Ready to make an appointment?

If you’d like to find out more information about our x-ray treatments you can do so here. To book a consultation or to make an appointment to see a doctor, you can get in touch with our friendly staff at our clinic here.