X-Ray Terminology and Fracture Definitions
For more in-depth fracture definitions visit our fracture classification page.
Alignment & Adequacy
Dislocations: Occurrence when two bones at a joint separate from their normal positions.
Subluxations (partial dislocation): A partial or incomplete dislocation of a joint.
Adequacy: Refers to the quality, exposure, and projection of the radiograph ensuring it’s suitable for interpretation.
Bones – Outline & Density
Breaks: Another term for fractures, indicating a breach in the continuity of the bone.
Lucencies: Areas on the X-ray that appear darker, indicating less dense or absent tissue.
Opacities: Areas on the X-ray that appear whiter, signifying dense material like bone or metal.
Tumours: Abnormal masses of tissue that may be benign or malignant.
Periosteal reaction: Radiographic changes in the periosteum due to injury or disease.
Transverse/Longitudinal: Fractures that occur horizontally/vertically across the bone.
Oblique/Spiral: Fractures that occur at an angle to the bone’s axis or wind around the bone.
Buckle: A compression fracture, commonly seen in children’s bones.
Torus: A bulging of the cortex, also commonly seen in children’s bones.
Greenstick: A fracture in which one side of the bone is broken while the other is bent, common in children.
Salter-Harris: Refers to fractures involving the growth plate in children.
Avulsion: Occurs when a fragment of bone is pulled off by a tendon or ligament.
Comminuted: A fracture where the bone breaks into multiple pieces.
Pathological: Fractures due to weakening of the bone caused by conditions like osteoporosis or cancer.
Compression/Wedge: A fracture causing the vertebra to collapse, commonly seen in osteoporotic patients.
Cartilage & Soft Tissues
Swelling: Abnormal enlargement of a body part, typically due to fluid accumulation.
Fat pad sign: An indication of a joint injury, noticeable when a fat pad is pushed out of place by joint fluid.
Lipohaemarthrosis: Presence of fat and blood in a joint, typically indicating a fracture.
Fluid levels: Indicate the presence of air and fluid in a joint or body cavity.
Gas/Air: Presence of air within a joint or soft tissue, usually due to infection or injury.
Joint effusions: Excess fluid accumulation in a joint.
Too wide/narrow joint spaces: Abnormal spacing in joint areas, often indicating conditions like arthritis or injury.
Foreign bodies: Objects that don’t naturally belong in the body and appear dense on X-ray.
Position & Anatomy
Anterior (Volar/Palmar)/Posterior (Dorsal): Refers to the front/back orientation.
Lateral (Radial)/Medial (Ulnar): Refers to the sides of the body or limbs. Lateral is towards the outer side, and medial is towards the centre.
Superior/Inferior: Upwards or downwards orientation in relation to the body.
Displacement & Findings
Displacement/Angulation/Rotation: Describe the direction and angle of fractured bone pieces.
Shortening/Distraction/Impaction: Terms describing the relative position of fracture fragments.