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Chest X-Ray

What Affects the Test

Reasons why the test results may not be helpful include:

  • Not being able to stay still and hold your breath when asked during the test.
  • Metal objects (such as spinal fixation rods and metal jewelry or belts) that get in the way of the X-ray picture.
  • Obesity, which can hide chest problems or make it hard to get a good X-ray picture.
  • Chest pain that can make it hard for you to take a deep breath during the X-ray.
  • Scarring from past lung surgery or changes from a chronic disease, which may make the X-ray pictures hard to read.

A picture taken with a portable machine may not be as clear as those made by a stationary machine.

What To Think About

  • Your X-ray test results may be different from earlier test results because you were tested at a different medical center or you had a different kind of test.
  • If a chest X-ray is not normal, more specific X-rays or other tests such as a CT scan, ultrasound, MRI scan, or a biopsy may be done.
  • Some conditions may not show up on a chest X-ray, such as a small cancer, a pulmonary embolus, or other problem that is hidden by the normal structures in the chest.
  • Certain workers, such as people who work with asbestos, may need regular chest X-rays to check for problems caused by asbestos.

Other Works Consulted

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerHoward Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Current as ofJune 11, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 11, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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