Often X-rays taken of body parts have multiple views. The number of views taken will often be described in the radiology report. X-ray views are simply different pictures of the same body part taken from different directions and angles. For example, a finger x-ray may include a straight on view, a slightly turned or oblique view, and a side view or lateral view. The different views allow abnormalities to be better shown on the x ray.
For example, a break on a finger X-ray may only be seen on the side view and not the other two views. In some cases, the break in the bone would be seen on all three views, especially when the bones are separated or displaced.
Often chest X-rays are also performed in both straight on and side or lateral views. This allows the radiologist to better identify abnormalities then with one view only. There are areas where abnormalities can hide on only one view, so the other view can help the radiologist see those hidden areas better or simply confirm that a shadow on one of the views is indeed an abnormality.
Bone X-rays are another common X-ray where multiple views are obtained. As described with the finger example, this allows breaks in the bone to better be identified. Sometimes subtle breaks will only be seen on one of the views. Bone tumors and infections can also be better shown on multiple views of the area.
There are also specialized views that are taken for specific purposes. For example, a scaphoid view of the wrist is taken to better see fractures of one of the wrist bones. Your doctor may request one of these views when he suspects a certain abnormality based on his findings.
The X-ray views are performed by a specially trained technologist who positions the patient and takes the X-ray. Sometimes the position is slightly off and can either hide the abnormality or make one where there isn’t. The radiologist interpreting the X-rays will often recognize this or request a retake of the X-ray.