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Posted On May 31, 2022 Auto Injury,Personal Injury

What Does It Mean If My X-rays Are Negative After an Injury?

If you go to a hospital or an urgent care facility after an accident, the first thing doctors are likely to do is order imaging tests called X-rays. Sometimes, X-ray imaging results can leave you stumped. Your X-rays may be “negative” or “inconclusive,” but you’re not imagining the symptoms you’re experiencing. 

Injury After Accident

What do you do next when you’re in pain after an accident but your X-rays are negative?  

What Are X-Rays and Why Do They Matter in a Personal Injury Claim?

X-rays are digital images produced by high-energy electromagnetic radiation. X-ray images give doctors a glimpse into what’s going on inside the body—the parts beneath the skin that they can’t see. In the diagnostic images produced by X-ray radiation, certain structures—most commonly bones and joints—are visible.Workers Compensation Injury

X-rays are only one of the various types of medical tests used to diagnose injuries. While they show injuries like broken and fractured bones, X-rays don’t show all possible types of damage your body could sustain in a motor vehicle collision, fall, or workplace accident.

What Types of Injuries May Not Appear on X-Rays?

Soft Tissue Injuries 

Your body is much more than bones. Organs, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and other structures make up the “soft tissues” of the body. 

Soft tissue injuries often don’t show up on X-rays, but that doesn’t mean they are “minor” injuries. Some soft tissue injuries can be life-changing. 

Examples of the types of soft tissue injuries include: 

  • Nerve injuries, including nerve compression and damage to the spinal nerves  
  • Bulging or herniated discs in the spine 
  • Torn or detached cartilage 
  • Brain injury or damage beyond fractures, including hematoma, hemorrhage, or contusion 
  • Rotator cuff tears and injuries 
  • Injuries to the structures that make up the knee joint, including the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), MCL (medial collateral ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament)

Some symptoms that could indicate soft tissue injuries include radiating pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness or diminished mobility. 

Occult Fractures 

An “occult fracture” is a type of break in the bone that isn’t easily seen on an X-ray. 

Diagnosing this kind of fracture may require additional testing or examination beyond an X-ray. Some of the body parts where occult fractures may occur more commonly include the upper arm, wrist, spine, hip, ankle, and foot. 

What Other Tests Can Be Used to Diagnose Injuries From an Accident?

MRI After an Accident

 Other tests that can be used to diagnose injuries include: 

  • Physical exam: Through a thorough physical examination that may include palpation and tests of reflexes, movement, and muscle strength, doctors can narrow down potential diagnoses and determine what tests to order.  
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): An MRI scan is an imaging technique in which a large, strong magnet and radio waves create images of the structures within the body, including soft tissues. 
  • CT (computed tomography): CT scans use waves of radiation produced by X-ray equipment to take a series of cross-sectional images of the body that, when put together, create a detailed 360-degree picture of the internal structures of the body. 

What Should I Do If My X-Rays Are Negative? 

When an X-ray identifies a problem, the next steps are typically fairly straightforward, even if your recovery is not. You may need a splint or cast on the injured body part or surgery to set the broken bone. 

If your X-rays are “negative,” meaning that they don’t show any irregularities or damage, you might not know what to do next. 

Medical Steps After Negative X-Rays 

More Options After X-Ray Negative

You should discuss all further plans for diagnosing or treating your injuries with your doctor. Your physician, who has access to and knowledge of your imaging tests and medical records, is the best person to guide your medical decisions. 

That said, our attorneys have decades of experience helping clients whose injuries don’t always show up on X-rays, so we can give you some idea of what often happens next. 

If your reason for getting medical care after an accident was purely to get things checked out proactively, a negative X-ray might actually mean that you didn’t suffer any significant injuries—but that’s not always the case. Follow up with your doctor if your symptoms persist or get worse. 

In some instances, you don’t have to wait to determine if something is wrong. Your symptoms make that clear, at least to you. Talk to your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Doctors often recommend their patients undergo another kind of test or a conservative line of treatment, like physical therapy, to see if that treatment makes a difference. 

Patients sometimes fear that their symptoms will be ignored if no damage shows up on an X-ray. If your physician doesn’t seem to take your issues seriously, consider seeking a second opinion. Living with untreated pain and loss of function isn’t an option. You deserve more than that. 

Legal Steps After Negative X-Rays

Having injuries that don’t show up on X-rays may add another challenge to a personal injury claim, but that’s nothing an experienced legal team can’t handle. 

Your lawyer will use the findings of other medical and imaging tests to document the very real harm you suffered and demonstrate the impact the injury has had on your life through your medical records and wage loss records. Depending on the severity of your injury, the type of accident involved, and the state laws that apply, having injuries that don’t appear on X-rays may affect how your claim proceeds. It’s especially important to have an experienced accident lawyer on your side when your injuries don’t appear on X-rays. 

The most important thing after an accident is getting your injuries diagnosed and documented so that you can start getting the help you need—medically, so that you can make the best physical recovery possible, and legally, so that you can be made whole financially after an accident.

We believe everyone deserves justice after being injured by another’s negligence. Contact Console & Associates Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. today for a free consultation and a No Win No Fee promise.