It is an imaging test that uses small amounts of radiation to produce images of the organs, tissues and bones of the body.
Chest x-rays can also tell if you have fluid in your lungs or air that surrounds your lungs. When focused on the chest, it can help detect abnormalities or diseases of the airways, blood vessels, bones, heart and lungs.
Your doctor may order a chest x-ray for a variety of reasons, including to evaluate injuries resulting from an accident or to control the progression of a disease, such as cystic fibrosis.
You may also need a chest x-ray if you go to the emergency room with chest pain or if you have been involved in an accident that included force in your chest area.
A chest x-ray is an easy, quick and effective test that has been useful for decades to help doctors see some of their most vital organs.
Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you suspect that your symptoms have a connection to problems in your chest. Suspicious symptoms may include:
- Chest pain.
- Persistent cough
- Difficulty breathing.
These symptoms may be the result of the following conditions, which a chest x-ray can detect:
- Broken ribs.
- Emphysema (a long-term progressive lung condition that causes breathing difficulties).
- Heart failure .
- Lung cancer.
- Pneumonia .
- Pneumothorax (an accumulation of air in the space between your lungs and the wall of your chest).
Another use for a chest x-ray is to see the size and shape of your heart. Abnormalities in the size and shape of your heart can indicate problems with heart function.
Doctors sometimes use chest x-rays to monitor their progress after surgery in the chest area. Doctors can check that the implanted materials are in the right place and make sure there are no air leaks or fluid buildup.
How to prepare for a chest x-ray?
Chest radiographs require very little preparation on the part of the person receiving it.
You should remove jewelry, eyeglasses, body piercing or other metal. Tell your doctor if you have a surgically implanted device, such as a heart valve or a pacemaker.
Your doctor may opt for a chest x-ray if you have metal implants. Other scans, such as MRI scans, can be risky for people who have metal in their bodies.
Before the x-ray, you will undress from the waist up and put on a hospital gown.
The x-ray is produced in a special room with a mobile X-ray camera attached to a large metal arm.
It will stand next to a “plate”. This plate may contain an X-ray film or a special sensor that records the images on a computer. You will wear a lead apron to cover your genitals. This is because the sperm in men and the ovules in women could be damaged by radiation.
The X-ray technician will tell you how to stand and record the front and side views of your chest.
While taking the pictures, you will have to hold your breath so that your chest remains completely still. If you move, the images may come out blurry.
As the radiation passes through your body and reaches the plate, the denser materials, like the bones and muscles of your heart, will appear white.
After the images have been captured, which should take approximately 20 minutes, your part will be complete. You can put your clothes back on and dedicate yourself to your day.
What are the complications associated with a chest x-ray?
Doctors agree that exposure to the small amount of radiation produced during a radiograph is well worth it because of the diagnostic benefits provided by the test.
However, doctors do not recommend x-rays if you are pregnant. This is because radiation can harm your unborn baby. If you think you are pregnant, be sure to tell your doctor.
A laboratory usually develops the images of a chest x-ray on large sheets of film. When viewed in an enlightened context, your doctor can look for a variety of problems, from tumors to broken bones.
A radiologist also reviews the images and gives his interpretation to his doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results of your x-rays with you at a follow-up appointment.