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, internist, or 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.
Two 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.
You 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 done.
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.