When Do I Need a Chest X-Ray for Heart Disease?

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on September 11, 2022

Your doctor has several ways to try to diagnose your heart disease. One of those is a chest X-ray.

It uses a small amount of radiation to produce an image of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Your doctor uses a chest X-ray to:

  • Look at your chest bones, heart, and lungs
  • See if your pacemaker, defibrillator, or other heart devices are in place
  • Check on any catheters and chest tubes you may have

What Happens During a Chest X-Ray?

You don’t need to do anything to get ready for it. But you do need to let the technician know if you could be pregnant.

Your X-ray will take no more than 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll have to remove all of your clothes and jewelry from the waist up, and wear a hospital gown. And you have to stand very still while you hold your breath with your chest against the cassette that contains the film.

The machine will then send X-rays through a tube. The rays pass through your chest and are absorbed on the film to create a picture. Bones and other dense areas show up as lighter areas while areas that don't absorb the radiation appear darker.

Then you will be asked to do the same thing, but with your left side against the cassette and your arms elevated.

The process is painless and simple. It can show your doctor if you have:

Show Sources


National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: "Explore Chest X Ray," "What is a Chest X Ray?" "How is Heart Disease Diagnosed?" "Chest X-ray (Chest Radiography)."

CDC: “Aortic Aneurysm Fact Sheet.”

Mayo Clinic: “Chest X-rays,” “Heart disease.”

American Heart Association: “Symptoms and Diagnosis of Cardiomyopathy.”

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