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Chest x-ray

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

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

How the Test is Performed

You stand in front of the x-ray machine. You will be told to hold your breath when the x-ray is taken.

Two images are usually taken. You will first need to stand facing the machine, and then sideways.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant. Chest x-rays are generally not done during the first 6 months of pregnancy.

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:

  • A persistent cough
  • Chest pain from a chest injury (with a possible rib fracture or lung complication) or from heart problems
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever

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

A serial chest x-ray is one that is repeated. It may be done to monitor changes found on a past chest x-ray.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to many things, including:

In the lungs:

In the heart:

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

In the bones:

Risks

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 benefits outweigh the risks. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

References

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Chest radiography (chest x-ray, CXR) - diagnostic norm. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:327-328.

Gotway MB, Panse PM, Gruden JF, Elicker BM. Thoracic radiology. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 18.

  • Aortic rupture, chest X-ray

    Aortic rupture, chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray

    Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Adenocarcinoma - chest X-ray

    Adenocarcinoma - chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Coal worker's lungs - chest X-ray

    Coal worker's lungs - chest X-ray

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  • Coccidioidomycosis - chest X-ray

    Coccidioidomycosis - chest X-ray

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  • Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II

    Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II

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  • Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II #2

    Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II #2

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  • Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated

    Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated

    illustration

  • Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated #2

    Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated #2

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  • Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays

    Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays

    illustration

  • Pulmonary nodule - front view chest X-ray

    Pulmonary nodule - front view chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Sarcoid, stage II - chest X-ray

    Sarcoid, stage II - chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Sarcoid, stage IV - chest X-ray

    Sarcoid, stage IV - chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Pulmonary mass - side view chest X-ray

    Pulmonary mass - side view chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Bronchial cancer - chest X-ray

    Bronchial cancer - chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Lung nodule, right middle lobe - chest X-ray

    Lung nodule, right middle lobe - chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Lung mass, right upper lung - chest X-ray

    Lung mass, right upper lung - chest X-ray

    illustration

  • Lung nodule - front view chest X-ray

    Lung nodule - front view chest X-ray

    illustration

    • Aortic rupture, chest X-ray

      Aortic rupture, chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray

      Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Adenocarcinoma - chest X-ray

      Adenocarcinoma - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Coal worker's lungs - chest X-ray

      Coal worker's lungs - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Coccidioidomycosis - chest X-ray

      Coccidioidomycosis - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II

      Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II

      illustration

    • Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II #2

      Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II #2

      illustration

    • Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated

      Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated

      illustration

    • Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated #2

      Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated #2

      illustration

    • Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays

      Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays

      illustration

    • Pulmonary nodule - front view chest X-ray

      Pulmonary nodule - front view chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Sarcoid, stage II - chest X-ray

      Sarcoid, stage II - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Sarcoid, stage IV - chest X-ray

      Sarcoid, stage IV - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Pulmonary mass - side view chest X-ray

      Pulmonary mass - side view chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Bronchial cancer - chest X-ray

      Bronchial cancer - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Lung nodule, right middle lobe - chest X-ray

      Lung nodule, right middle lobe - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Lung mass, right upper lung - chest X-ray

      Lung mass, right upper lung - chest X-ray

      illustration

    • Lung nodule - front view chest X-ray

      Lung nodule - front view chest X-ray

      illustration

    Tests for Chest x-ray

     
     

    Review Date: 8/21/2016

    Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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