X-ray is a picture of the chest that shows your
lungs, airway, blood vessels, and
lymph nodes . A chest X-ray also shows the bones of
your spine and chest, including your
your ribs, your
collarbone , and the upper part of your
spine . A chest X-ray is the most common imaging test
or X-ray used to find problems inside the chest.
A chest X-ray
can help find some problems with the organs and structures inside the chest.
Usually two pictures are taken, one from the back of the chest and another from
the side. In an emergency when only one X-ray picture is taken, a front view is
usually done. Doctors may not always get the information they need from a chest
X-ray to find the cause of a problem. If the results from a chest X-ray are not
normal or do not give enough information about the chest problem, more specific
X-rays or other tests may be done, such as a
computed tomography (CT) scan, an
echocardiogram, or an
Why It Is Done
A chest X-ray is done to:
- Help find the cause of common symptoms such as
a cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
- Find lung
pneumonia, lung cancer,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
collapsed lung (pneumothorax), or
cystic fibrosis—and monitor treatment for these
- Find some heart problems, such as an enlarged heart,
heart failure, and problems causing fluid in the lungs
(pulmonary edema), and to monitor treatment for these
- Look for problems from a chest injury, such as rib
fractures or lung damage.
- Find foreign objects , such as coins or
other small pieces of metal, in the tube to the stomach (esophagus), the
airway, or the lungs. A chest X-ray may not be able to see food, nuts, or wood
- See if a tube, catheter, or other
medical device has been placed in the proper position in an airway, the heart,
blood vessels of the chest, or the stomach.
How To Prepare
Tell your doctor if you are or might be
pregnant. A chest X-ray usually is not done during pregnancy because the
radiation could harm the unborn baby (fetus). But the
chance of harm to the fetus is very small. If you need a chest X-ray, you will
wear a lead apron to help protect your baby.
Talk to your doctor
about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it
will be done, or what the results mean. To help you understand the importance
of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
A chest X-ray is taken by a radiology
technologist. The pictures are usually read by a
radiologist, who writes the report. Other types of
doctors, such as a
family medicine doctor,
surgeon, also may review chest X-rays.