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.
You will need to take off jewelry that might be in the way of the X-ray
picture. You may need to take off all or most of your clothes above the waist
(you may be allowed to keep on your underwear if it does not get in the way of
the test). You will be given a gown to wear during the test.
X-ray views of the chest are usually taken. One view is taken from the back;
the other view is taken from the side of the body. But other views may be
needed, depending on what your doctor is looking for. In an emergency, only one
picture may be taken, usually from the front.
You usually stand
with your front against an X-ray plate for the pictures. If you need to sit or
lie down, someone will help you get into the correct position.
will need to hold very still during the X-ray to prevent blurring of the
picture. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds while the X-ray
picture is taken.
Most hospitals and some clinics have portable
X-ray machines. If a chest X-ray is done with a portable X-ray machine at your
bedside in a hospital, an X-ray technologist and nurse will help you move into
the correct position. Usually only one picture from the front is taken.
How It Feels
You will not feel pain during a chest
X-ray. The X-ray plate may feel hard, and the room may be cool. If you have
pain from your chest problem, you may feel some discomfort if you need to hold
a certain position, breathe deep, or hold your breath while the X-ray is
There is always a slight chance of damage to
cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for
this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is usually very low
compared with the benefits of the test.
X-ray is a picture of the chest to see your
lungs , airway, blood vessels, and
lymph nodes. A chest X-ray also shows the bones of
your chest, including your
collarbone , and the upper part of your
spine . A chest X-ray is the most common imaging test
used to find problems inside the chest.
In an emergency, the
results of a chest X-ray can be available within a few minutes for review by
your doctor. If it is not an emergency, results are usually ready in 1 or 2
The lungs look normal in size
and shape, and the lung tissue looks normal. No growths or other masses can be
seen within the lungs. The
pleural spaces (the spaces surrounding the lungs) also look normal. See a
normal chest X-ray .
The heart looks normal in
size, shape, and the heart tissue looks normal. The blood vessels leading to
and from the heart also are normal in size, shape, and appearance.
The bones including the spine
and ribs look normal.
diaphragm looks normal in shape and
No abnormal collection of
fluid or air is seen, and no foreign objects are seen.
All tubes, catheters, or other
medical devices are in their correct positions in the chest.
An infection, such as
tuberculosis, is present.
Problems such as a tumor,
injury, or a condition such as
heart failure may be seen. In some cases, more X-rays
or other tests may be needed to see the problem clearly.
A problem such as an enlarged
heart-which could be caused by heart damage,
heart valve disease, or fluid around the heart-is
seen. Or a problem of the blood vessels, such as an enlarged
aneurysm, or hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), is seen.
Fluid is seen in the lungs
(pulmonary edema) or around the lungs (pleural effusion), or air is seen in the spaces around
a lung (pneumothorax).
Broken bones (fractures) are
seen in the rib cage, collarbone, shoulder, or spine.
Enlarged lymph nodes are
A foreign object is seen in
the esophagus, breathing tubes, or lungs.
A tube, catheter, or other
medical device looks like it has moved out of the correct position.