A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the chest, lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and diaphragm.
Chest radiography; Serial chest x-ray; X-ray - chest
How the Test is Performed
You stand in front of the x-ray machine. You will be told to hold your breath when the x-ray is taken.
Two images are usually taken. You will need to stand against the machine, and then sideways.
How to Prepare for the Test
Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant. Chest x-rays are generally not done during the first 6 months of pregnancy.
How the Test Will Feel
There is no discomfort. The film plate may feel cold.
Why the Test is Performed
Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have any of the following symptoms:
- A persistent cough
- Chest injury
- Chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty breathing
It may also be done if you have signs of tuberculosis, lung cancer, or other chest or lung disease.
A serial chest x-ray is one that is repeated. It may be done to look at or monitor changes found on a previous chest x-ray.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to many things, including:
In the lungs:
- Collapsed lung
- Collection of fluid around the lung
- Lung cancer
- Lung tumor
- Malformation of the blood vessels
- Scarring of lung tissue
In the heart:
- Problems with the size or shape of the heart
- Problems with the position and shape of the large arteries
In the bones:
- Fractures of ribs and spine
- Other problems with the ribs or spine
Abnormal results may also be due to:
There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is very low compared with the benefits.Pregnant women and childrens are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.
Gotway MB, Elicker BM. Radiographic techniques. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus CV, Martin TR, et al. Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 19.
Stark P. Imaging in pulmonary disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 84.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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