ZocdocAnswersCan I find out if I have a broken bone without an x-ray?

Question

Can I find out if I have a broken bone without an x-ray?

Scared of xrays but I think I might have broke my arm by falling. Any way to find out if its broken without an x-ray?

Answer

I am very sorry to hear that you think you may have broken your arm falling. Also coincidentally sorry to hear of your fear of X-rays...although radiation is not something to be taken lightly, so I can understand the concern. The short answer is yes, there are ways of determining if in fact a bone is broken without performing an X-ray. Physician exam, for example, if done by a skilled physician will be able to determine if a bone is broken in some cases. However, depending on the time since it was broken, and the extent of the break, it can be very difficult to determine. If a bone isn't fractured all the way through, then it would be very difficult. Also if left too long, a fracture will start to hear by forming a bunch of scar tissue around the fracture, which can make it hard to examine. With a bad, displaced fracture you can potentially have compromise of distal blood flow, and it can affect the nerves running through the area, and this deficit may be permanent if not corrected early. For an arm, the X-ray radiation dose is actually very low, and does not pose a significant risk to your overall health (like developing a cancer, etc). Also it should be painless which will not be the case with a physical exam. I would recommend either going into the emergency department, to see your general practitioner, or to see an orthopedic surgeon to be evaluated. I wish you all the best.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.