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Chest x-ray

Definition

A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the chest, lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and diaphragm.

Alternative Names

Chest radiography; Serial chest x-ray; X-ray - chest

How the test is performed

The test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office by an x-ray technician. Two views are usually taken: one in which the x-rays pass through the chest from the back (posterior-anterior view), and one in which the x-rays pass through the chest from one side to the other (lateral view). You stand in front of the machine and must hold your breath when the x-ray is taken.

How to prepare for the test

Inform the health care provider if you are pregnant. Chest x-rays are generally avoided during the first six months of pregnancy. You must wear a hospital gown and remove all jewelry.

How the test will feel

There is no discomfort. The film plate may feel cold.

Why the test is performed

Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have any of the following symptoms:

It may also be done if you have signs of tuberculosis, lung cancer, or other chest or lung disease.

A serial chest x-ray (repeated) may be used to evaluate or monitor changes found on a previous chest x-ray.

What abnormal results mean

Abnormal results may be due to may things, including the following.

In the lungs:

In the heart:

  • Problems with the size or shape of the heart determined
  • Problems with the position and shape of the large arteries

In the bones:

Abnormal results may also be due to:

What the risks are

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is very low compared with the benefits. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

References

Stark P. Imaging in pulmonary disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 84.


Review Date: 8/13/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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