The speed with which an X-ray is read and a report issued depends on multiple factors. One of the more important is the patient location when the exam is ordered. The priority of the order- stat or routine is another important factor. How backed up the radiology work list is. What time your exam is done if routine. There are also facility specific factors.
Location of Patient
The location where you are located when an X-ray is taken is an important factor. X-rays done from the emergency room are often read in under an hour, often minutes later depending on how busy the radiologist is. X-rays done from the emergency room are prioritized on the radiologist work list.
Emergency room patients
X-rays from the emergency room are given priority because these are the sickest patients with health emergencies. The emergency room doctor uses the information from the X-ray to help with your care.
Patients in the hospital who have X-rays will also be given priority. These are also sick patients who may have emergent conditions and may need urgent treatment. Often these X-rays are just beneath the emergency room patients in priority.
Outpatients or those from clinics will be given the lowest priority. They will often be read the same day if done during business hours. Some routine X-rays done late in the evening may not be read until the next day.
Order priority also matters. Those outpatients who are ordered stat may be read within an hour. Usually these are outpatients who may have urgent or life threatening conditions and presented to their doctors clinic.
Radiology work list backup
The backup on the radiology work list will also determine how fast an X-ray is read. When there are many stat cases, this may slow down the reading of routine cases or inpatients.
Unlike a doctor with a clinic, radiologists often do not know how many patient scans they will have to read ahead of time. This is especially true for the emergency room where the patient census is unknown ahead of time.
There may also be backup because of a shortage of radiologists at the facility or volume spikes. This may cause some of the routine outpatients to not be read for longer then expected.
Changing order priority
Some doctors change the order priority of routine patients to stat to get their patient scans read quicker. This is especially true if the doctor thinks there may be an urgent condition present. Other times, a patient who had an outpatient X-ray may present to the emergency room. In these cases, the emergency room doctor may ask the scan to be read stat.
The speed with which an X-ray is read depends on the location of the patient when the X-ray is done. The order priority-stat or routine. The backup of the radiology work list which depends on multiple factors as well. An emergency or stat X-ray will however usually be read in under an hour. Routine X-rays are more variable as outlined.