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X-Ray Exam: Upper Arm (Humerus)

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
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What's an X-Ray?

An X-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation to make an image of bones, organs, and other parts of the body.

The X-ray image is black and white. Dense body parts, such as bones, block the passage of the X-ray beam through the body. These look white on the X-ray image. Softer body tissues, such as the skin and muscles, allow the X-ray beams to pass through them. They look darker on the image.

X-rays are commonly done in doctors’ offices, radiology departments, imaging centers, and dentists’ offices.

What's an Upper Arm (Humerus) X-Ray?

In a humerus X-ray, an X-ray machine sends a beam of radiation through the upper arm (between the shoulder and elbow), and an image is recorded on a computer or special film. This image shows the soft tissues and the bone in the upper arm, which is called the humerus (HYOO-mer-iss).

An X-ray technician will take pictures of the humerus: 

  • from the front (anteroposterior view or AP)
  • from the side (lateral view)

Humerus X-rays are done are done with a child standing or lying down. They should stay still for 2–3 seconds while each X-ray is taken so the images are clear. If an image is blurred, the X-ray technician might take another one.

Why Are Humerus X-Rays Done?

A humerus X-ray can help doctors find the cause of pain, tenderness, swelling, or deformity of the upper arm. It can show a broken bone. After a broken bone has been set, an X-ray can show if the bones are aligned and if they have healed properly.

An X-ray can help doctors plan surgery, when needed, and check the results after it. It also can help to detect cysts, tumors, later stages of infection, and other diseases in the bone of the upper arm.

What if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about the humerus X-ray or what the results mean, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: March 2022