What is a Chest X-Ray?
A chest X-ray is a diagnostic procedure that uses X-rays to produce images of the inside of the chest. During this test, an X-ray machine sends a short burst of radiation to the area being examined and an image is recorded on film, which image is placed on the other side of the patient. Bones absorb most of the X-rays and appear white on the image, while soft tissues allow X-rays to pass through and appear dark.
On a chest X-ray, the ribs and spine absorb most of the radiation and appear white, while lung tissue and air in the lungs appear black.
A chest X-ray usually detects abnormalities in the lungs, heart, large blood vessels, and bones of the chest. It is a quick and easy procedure used in the emergency diagnosis of specific conditions.
A chest X-ray can be performed in the following projections:
- PA view: Posterioranterior (PA) view
- AP view: Anterior-posterior (AP) view
Posteroanterior (PA) view is the standard position for a chest X-ray. In this, X-ray radiation is passed from the back (posterior) to the front (anterior) of the chest. This is an excellent test for imaging the lungs, heart, and mediastinum, but the patient must stand up to the procedure.
Anterior-posterior (AP) view is an alternative to PA View. This can be done in an upright or supine position. In this, X-rays are passed from front to back of the chest. This test may be performed in people who are unwell or intubated and cannot stand, but it has some drawbacks, including
- X-rays are more likely to show skin folds,
- The heart is distal, and therefore, mediastinal structures (structures that include the heart, trachea, and esophagus) may be visible.
- An enlarged tendon (scapula) may obscure part of the lungs.
Read About Other tests: Click here.
Who cannot have a chest X-ray done?
Although X-Ray radiography is a safe procedure, it is generally avoided during pregnancy because X-rays can cause birth defects in the fetus.
What are the reasons to do the chest X-Ray?
A chest x-ray is usually the first test done to diagnose the cause of the symptoms like :
- Coughing up blood,
- Shortness of breath,
- Chest pain,
- Persistent cough,
Your doctor will also order this test in the following cases:
- To check the health of your lungs, heart, and chest wall as part of a preoperative procedure or routine exam to check how far the disease has progressed and how well treatment is working.
- To examine your lungs after surgery to locate implanted pacemaker leads, chest tubes, or other internal devices.
The PA view is the most common and preferred view for imaging the lungs, mediastinum, chest cavity, and blood vessels to detect a broken bone or injury to the lungs, to detect metallic objects such as coins (usually in children). However, the AP view is preferred for those unable to stand due to illness or intubation.
How one should prepare for the chest X-Ray?
No special preparation is required before a chest X-ray. A woman should tell her doctor if she is pregnant. You will be given a hospital gown to change and you will need to remove all jewelry and any other metal objects before the test. Your doctor may also ask you to sign a consent form allowing you to have the procedure.
What procedure is performed for chest X-Ray?
The following procedure is done for a chest X-ray examination:
- Depending on the images required, the technician will ask you to sit, stand or lie down in front of the X-ray. Back-to-back chest X-rays may be taken. Forward (PA) or front to back (AP). To get a side view, you may need to lie on your side and raise your hands above your head.
- The technician will position you and then stand behind a special window to operate the X-ray machine. You will be asked to lie still and hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds while the X-ray is taken to prevent blurring.
- The test usually takes about 15 minutes.
What do you feel during chest X-Ray?
This procedure is non-invasive and is usually painless. When the radiation passes through your body, you will not feel anything. However, a person with arthritis or a chest injury may feel uncomfortable lying down during the procedure. You may also find the coolness of the X-ray panel and the cold room temperature a little uncomfortable.
What conditions can be detected by chest X-Ray?
The following conditions can be diagnosed using a chest X-ray:
Lung conditions, such as:
- Lung tumor
- Collapsed lung
- Pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid around the lungs or in the lungs)
- Pleurisy (of the lining of the lungs)
- Swelling of the lung tissue
Heart conditions, such as:
- Abnormal shape or size of the heart
- Aneurysm (inflammation of the blood vessels)
- Changed position or size of large blood vessels
- Evidence of heart failure
Other conditions, such as:
- Broken ribs or spinal column
What is the risk of the Chest X-Ray?
Chest X-Ray has no side effects if is done in a safe and correct diagnostic manner.
If there is excessive exposure to the radiation then there is the risk of causing cancer but the incidence is negligible and there is no need to worry.
What other tests are performed along with this test?
Depending on the suspected condition, your doctor may order the following tests along with a chest X-ray:
- Pulmonary function tests
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- PET (positron emission tomography) scan
- Pulmonary nuclear scan
( Disclaimer: Information provided in this piece of article is purely for educational purposes only. All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s data to make an accurate diagnosis.)