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What’s in My X-ray Report? Decoding Common Terminology

X-ray of skull AP and lateral view

Common Terms Found in an X-ray Imaging Report

The notes in your X-ray report are the key to making sense of your scans, whether it’s an X-ray of the chest, hand or abdomen. In those few paragraphs, you’ll find detailed information about the results of an X-ray examination. But within the report notes, you may find complex, unfamiliar medical terms or phrases that make it difficult to decipher your results. Understanding what’s found in a typical X-ray report can help decrease “scanxiety” for patients viewing their imaging before speaking with their provider. Here are some distinct terms, phrases and acronyms commonly found in X-ray reports:

What does CR stand for?

On a radiology report, CR stands for computed radiography. This is a digital X-ray imaging system that uses a special plate to capture the X-ray image. The image is then processed by a computer and displayed on a monitor for the radiologist to interpret.

What is an undulation?

On an X-ray report, an undulation refers to a wavy or uneven appearance in the image. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including the position of the patient during the examination or the presence of air or fluid in the body.

What does NF stand for?

NF stands for “not found.” This notation is used to indicate that a specific finding or abnormality was not present in the X-ray image

What does density mean on an X-ray report?

Radiographic density refers to how much contrast appears on the image after processing. the black portion on a film indicates the most exposure because the metallic silver turns black when exposed to radiation. White indicates too little density or underexposure. Black means too much density or overexposure. A greater number of densities on a film, provides more visibility of the structural details. Densitometer measures the density on a scale between 0 and 4, but the useful range of densities or diagnostic range is only between .25 and 2.5.

What does lucency mean on an X-ray report?

This is the opposite of density. Lucency refers to the less dense regions of structures, such as air-filled lungs, which appear darker on the X-ray image. To a radiologist, lucency is cause for concern when there is too much of it and if it’s in an atypical location.

Resources Available to Patients After X-ray Exam

Patients are encouraged to ask their healthcare provider for explanations or clarification if they have any questions about their X-ray report, but it helps to show up prepared. 

PocketHealth enables patients to access their X-ray imaging and reports online and offers Report Reader, a feature that  helps patients decipher some of the most complex terms found in imaging reports, including X-rays. It provides in-browser definitions on all devices, with complex terms highlighted and defined using simple language. This way, users don’t have to navigate out of the platform and scour search engines to find credible and accurate information. It’s one way PocketHealth reduces scanxiety and simplifies medical imaging records for patients who want to be at the center of their care.

Since medical imaging uses unique and complex language, you can refer to the PocketHealth’s Radiology Terminology index to find definitions for other uncommon terms.

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