A chest x-ray is an image of the heart and lungs. A small dose of radiation is used to create the image. It is one of the most common medical tests done.
Reasons for Test
Chest x-rays are done to look for abnormalities of the heart, lungs, bones, or blood vessels in the chest. Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have certain symptoms, such as:
- Bad or persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Chest injury
Chest x-rays are done using a very small dose of radiation. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor or the x-ray technician. X-rays are generally avoided during pregnancy if possible.
What to Expect
Prior to Test
You will be asked to remove all jewelry from the waist up. You will also put on a hospital gown. A lead apron may be placed over your abdomen and pelvis. This is done to minimize the risk of radiation.
Description of Test
Pictures are usually taken from two different views, a side view and a front view. An x-ray technician will position you according to the type of x-ray machine used. In most cases, you will stand against the x-ray machine with your hands up or to the side. You will be asked to take a deep breath and hold it while the x-ray is being taken. You will also be asked to stay as still as possible when the film is taken. You may notice that the film cartridge feels cool to your skin.
You will be able to leave after the test is done.
How Long Will It Take?
About 10-15 minutes
Will It Hurt?
A radiologist (a doctor who specializes in x-rays) will look at your x-ray and send a report to your doctor. Results are generally available in 1-2 days.
An abnormal x-ray may require further testing, including:
American Heart Association
Radiology for Patients
Chest. Radiological Society of North America. Radiography website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=chestrad&bhcp=1. Accessed on July 11, 2008.
Chest x-rays: sorting out problems in your chest. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chest-x-rays/HB00019. Accessed on July 11, 2008.
Zaret BL, Jatlow PI, and Katz LD. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1997: 134-136.
Last reviewed October 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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