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X-Ray Exam: Lower Leg (Tibia and Fibula)

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 a Lower Leg X-Ray?

In a tibia and fibula X-ray, an X-ray machine sends a beam of radiation through the lower leg, and an image is recorded on a computer or special X-ray film. This image shows the bones (tibia and fibula) and soft tissues of the lower leg.

An X-ray technician will take pictures of the lower leg: 

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

Lower leg X-rays are done with a child lying on a table. 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.

xray_illustration

Why Are Lower Leg X-Rays Done?

An X-ray of the tibia and fibula can help doctors find the cause of pain, tenderness, swelling, or deformity of the lower leg. It can show broken bones. 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 diagnose later stages of infections, as well as cysts, tumors, and other diseases in the bones of the lower leg.

What if I Have Questions?

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

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