6 Life Threatening Conditions That Can Be Picked Up By an X-ray

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On November 8th 1895, Wilhelm Rontgen discovered X-rays when he noticed that cardboard he was using in his experiments glowed when radiation hit the surface. Millions of lives have been saved by X-ray imaging over the years, and 6 life-threatening conditions in particular can be identified with an X-ray while there is still time to treat them successfully.


  1. Bone fractures

While most bone fractures will heal in time, and cause no serious complications, some broken bones have the potential to cause potentially life-threatening complications. Osteomyelitis, for instance, can occur when a compound fracture breaks the skin. If the bone marrow becomes infected, this can progress to osteomyelitis.

Avascular necrosis is another possible complication of a broken bone, which involves the loss of blood supply to the bone – causing it to die. X-rays for possible broken bones are now commonplace around the world, but they save lives every day.

  1. Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a condition that involves the twisting of the spine, which results in a noticeable curvature. The most common symptoms of the condition are a visibly curved spine, a prominent rib cage, a shoulder that is higher than the other and one hip that is noticeably more prominent than the other. Most cases of scoliosis are congenital, but other illnesses such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy can cause the condition.

Scoliosis has the potential to cause severe nerve compression, which can lead to loss of bladder control, severe pain and numbness in the legs. In severe cases, the rib cage can be pushed against the heart and lungs, which can lead to infections, respiratory problems and heart failure. But The Portland Hospital imaging services can identify the first signs of scoliosis relatively easily, and ensure that treatment can start as soon as possible.

  1. Cancerous bone tumours

The symptoms of a cancerous bone tumour include persistent pain in the bone, which can often be worse during the night. People with a malignant bone tumour may also notice a significant lump on the bone, swelling and redness. An X-ray will usually be the first diagnostic ordered by a consultant, as it can highlight any areas of abnormality very quickly.

  1. Lung cancer

More than 40,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, and it remains one of the most common and life-threatening forms of the disease. Unfortunately, the early stages of lung cancer present very few symptoms, but as a tumour grows, some serious symptoms can be experienced, including:

  • A bad cough that persists throughout the day
  • Breathlessness
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Extreme lethargy
  • A pain when coughing or breathing
  • The coughing up of blood

When lung cancer is suspected, the first test is usually a chest X-ray, which shows up as a grey mass. Unfortunately, X-ray imaging only identifies that a mass is present, and it cannot distinguish lung cancer from other conditions affecting the lung. If a mass is found, the patient will be referred to a specialist, who may conduct a CT scan and take a biopsy.

  1. Heart disease

Although not commonly used for the diagnosis of heart disease, X-rays are sometimes called upon to check if the heart is larger than it should be, and whether or not there is fluid on the lungs. Both of these conditions might be signs of heart disease, but further testing is required for a definitive diagnosis.