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X-Ray Exam: Hip

What's an X-Ray?

An X-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation to make an image of bones, organs, and other parts of the body.

The X-ray image is black and white. Dense body parts, such as bones, block the passage of the X-ray beam through the body. These look white on the X-ray image. Softer body tissues, such as the skin and muscles, allow the X-ray beams to pass through them. They look darker on the image.

X-rays are commonly done in doctors’ offices, radiology departments, imaging centers, and dentists’ offices.

What's a Hip X-Ray?

In a hip X-ray, an X-ray machine sends a beam of radiation through the pelvic bones and hip joints (where the legs attach to the pelvis), and an image is recorded on a computer or special film. This image shows the soft tissues and the bones of the pelvis and hip joints.

An X-ray technician will take pictures of the hip: 

  • from the front (anteroposterior view or AP)
  • from the side (lateral view, also known as the frog leg lateral view)

Typically, X-rays of both hips are taken for comparison, even if only one hip is causing symptoms.

Hip X-rays are done with a child lying on a table. They should stay still for 2–3 seconds while each X-ray is taken so the images are clear. If an image is blurred, the X-ray technician might take another one.

Why Are Hip X-Rays Done?

A hip X-ray can help doctors find the cause of limping, pain, tenderness, swelling, or deformity in the hip area. It can show broken bones or a dislocated joint. After a broken bone has been set, an X-ray can show if the bones are aligned and if they have healed properly.

An X-ray can help doctors plan surgery, when needed, and check the results after it. A hip X-ray also can help to detect bone cysts, tumors, infection of the hip joint, or other diseases in the bones of the hips.

What if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about the hip X-ray or what the results mean, talk to your doctor or the X-ray technician.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 20, 2022

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