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Chest x-ray



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.

Normal Values

What abnormal results mean

In the lungs:

In the heart:

  • Size and shape of the heart determined
  • Position and shape of the large arteries

In the bones:

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed:

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.

Special considerations

Aortic rupture, chest X-ray Lung cancer, frontal chest X-ray Adenocarcinoma - chest X-ray Coal worker Coccidioidomycosis - chest X-ray Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II #2 Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated #2 Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays Pulmonary nodule - front view chest X-ray Sarcoid, stage II - chest X-ray Sarcoid, stage IV - chest X-ray Pulmonary mass - side view chest X-ray Bronchial cancer - chest X-ray Lung nodule, right middle lobe - chest X-ray Lung mass, right upper lung - chest X-ray Lung nodule - front view chest X-ray
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Coughing up blood
Chest pain
Pulmonary tuberculosis
Lung cancer - small cell
Lung disease
Collapsed lung
Pleural effusion
Arteriovenous malformation - cerebral
Broken bone
Heart attack
Acute mountain sickness
Simple pulmonary eosinophilia
Adult Still's disease
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
Aortic dissection
Aortic insufficiency
Aortic stenosis
Acute respiratory distress syndrome
Aspiration pneumonia
Atrial septal defect
Atypical pneumonia
Breast cancer
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
Caplan syndrome
Cardiac tamponade
Brain abscess
Coal worker's pneumoconiosis
Coarctation of the aorta
Coccidioidomycosis - acute pulmonary
Coccidioidomycosis - chronic pulmonary
Coccidioidomycosis - disseminated
Diaphragmatic hernia
Diffuse interstitial lung disease
Dilated cardiomyopathy
Disseminated tuberculosis
Drug-induced lupus erythematosus
Drug-induced pulmonary disease
Goodpasture syndrome
Heart failure
Histoplasmosis - acute (primary) pulmonary
Histoplasmosis - chronic pulmonary
Histoplasmosis - disseminated
Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Hospital-acquired pneumonia
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
Hypertensive heart disease
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Industrial bronchitis
Infectious endocarditis
Inhalation anthrax
Ischemic cardiomyopathy
Legionnaire's disease
Lyme disease - early disseminated
Malignant hypertension
Mesothelioma (benign-fibrous)
Mesothelioma (malignant)
Metastatic brain tumor
Metastatic cancer to the lung
Metastatic pleural tumor
Mitral regurgitation - acute
Mitral regurgitation - chronic
Mitral stenosis
Mitral valve prolapse
Mycoplasma pneumonia
Necrotizing vasculitis
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Occupational asthma
Patent ductus arteriosus
Pericarditis - bacterial
Pericarditis - after heart attack
Peripartum cardiomyopathy
Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia
Pneumonia - weakened immune system
Premature infant
Primary alveolar hypoventilation
Pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary actinomycosis
Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis
Pulmonary aspergilloma (mycetoma)
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary embolus
Pulmonary nocardiosis
Pulmonary valve stenosis
Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease
Q fever - early
Renal cell carcinoma
Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Restrictive cardiomyopathy
Rheumatoid lung disease
Cardiac amyloidosis
Skin lesion of histoplasmosis
Solitary pulmonary nodule
SVC obstruction
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Testicular cancer
Tetralogy of Fallot
Transient ischemic attack
Transposition of the great vessels
Ventricular septal defect
Viral pneumonia
Wegener’s granulomatosis
Wilms tumor
Related Taxonomy
- Test

Review Date: 8/10/2008
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.
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