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X-Ray Shoulder-Left

Also known as

Shoulder Joint X-ray, Glenohumeral joint X-ray, GH X-ray

A shoulder x-ray is an imaging exam composed of two perpendicular views of the shoulder joint, connecting the humerus and scapula. Shoulder X-rays are commonly ordered in every Emergency Department for trauma cases, for which shoulder dislocations are the most usual cause. The shoulder or glenohumeral joint consists of three bony structures;


  • 1-The humerus (bone running along the upper arm)
  • 2- The scapula (the shoulder blade)
  • 3- The clavicle (collarbone)
The shoulder joint is also reinforced by four rotator cuff muscles, which help with mobility.
The most frequent reason a shoulder x-ray is ordered is to determine the presence of a bone fracture. The x-ray image can also provide information on the shoulder joint's position, bone abnormalities, bone tumors and soft tissue disorders (calcifications in the rotator cuff muscles). The clavicle is by far the most common shoulder injury, accounting for about 80% of shoulder-related injuries. Distal and medial fractures are also common but are hard to diagnose since they are subtle.
Your doctor may order a shoulder x-ray if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • Intense pain in the shoulder that is unresponsive to treatment
  • A visible structural deformity of the shoulder
  • A history of physical trauma at the shoulder
  • Bony tenderness at the glenohumeral joint/region
  • Instability
  • Suspected dislocation
  • AC joint injury
  • Scapula trauma
  • Suspected arthritis
  • Non-traumatic shoulder pain
  • A possibility of metastases (especially in patients with a history of breast or lung cancer)
  • Persisting pain in shoulder joint and impairment in mobility
  • Stiffness and discomfort in the shoulder (particularly in an elderly patient)
  • Restriction of rotation
  • X-ray is also a commonly used imaging method for diagnosing and ruling out an intrinsic cause for motion loss, such as shoulder arthritis and capsulitis. Thus, a shoulder x-ray may be recommended if you are elderly, already have arthritis or other bone degenerative diseases.
A shoulder x-ray doesn't require any special preparation. Tell your doctor if you have a surgically implanted device (e.g. a pacemaker, cochlear implants, artificial heart valve, or a metal plate). Metal objects in the body can interfere with the x-ray, but your doctor may still choose to continue with the procedure. You will be required to remove your clothes and don a hospital gown before the procedure. You will also have to remove jewelry, eyeglasses, hearing aids and dentures as they can interfere with the x-ray image. It is also critical to tell the doctor if you may be pregnant since fetuses are more susceptible to radiation from x-rays. The doctor or technician will use a protective lead apron over your midsection if you are pregnant.
Your X-ray will have a black and white image of your wrist, clearly showing bones and less dense structures. However, there could also be signs of swelling or incidental findings: An x-ray of the shoulder usually follows the following process:
  • Depending on the type of view or image requested by your doctor, the technician will guide you into the correct position. In anterior-posterior view (AP), the x-ray technician will position you in a standing position facing the x-ray machine with your back against the image detector. You will be seated with your affected shoulder touching the detector and your hand on your abdomen in the lateral view.
  • You may have to switch your positions if your doctor has requested X-Ray views to be taken from a different position.
  • Body parts that are not being x-rayed may be covered with a lead apron (shield) to avoid radiation exposure.
  • It is vital to remain motionless during the procedure. Movement may cause a blurry image, and you may have to get the x-ray done again.
  • The technician may ask you to inhale and hold your breath during the procedure for a better x-ray image.
Once taken, your X-rays will be given to a radiologist who is a medical professional specially trained in reading and understanding radiographs. The radiologist will then write out a report which they will share with your primary physician. Your doctor will then discuss the report with you. A treatment plan will begin once the doctor has determined if you have a fractured or dislocated bone, arthritis, or other bone degenerative diseases.
Related Tests

Clavicle X-ray, Humerus AP Lateral X-ray Scapula X-ray, Shoulder 2V X-ray