A chest x-ray produces images of the chest, lungs, heart, arteries, diaphragm, and the bones in the spine and chest. The test is also known as a chest radiograph and is normally done by an x-ray technician. Since this test is a radiology test, it may be conducted in the radiology department of a hospital.
Patients are asked to take a chest x-ray when they complain of symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, very bad cough, and fever. A chest x-ray is also taken if there is an injury, to see if any of the bones in the spine or chest are fractured. The results of a chest x-ray will help the doctor identify if the patient has pneumonia, lung cancer, emphysema, or other problems with the heart.
A chest x-ray can be extremely useful in the detection of pneumonia, which is a common disease in all age groups. It is taken using a standard x-ray machine, and the patient is asked to stand at a specific distance in front of the machine to take the test. Two x-rays are usually taken. One is taken from the side and is called the lateral view. The other is taken with the back of the patient facing the x-ray machine and is called the posterior-anterior view. The patient is asked to hold their breath when the x-ray is taken.
There is no preparation that is needed before a chest x-ray. The patient may be asked to wear a hospital gown and remove all jewelry before the procedure. There are no risks associated with a chest x-ray, as the exposure to radiation is very low. It is very important to inform the doctor before the procedure if the patient is pregnant. Chest x-rays or any other x-rays for that matter are not recommended for pregnant women during their first six months of pregnancy.
A chest x-ray is normally read by a radiologist, who analyzes the report and prepares the summary.
A chest x-ray does have limitations when it comes to identifying small cancers or blood clots in the lungs, and it does not help in identifying all chest related conditions. A chest CT scan will need to be done to identify abnormalities that are not normally visible in a chest x-ray. The CT scan, also called a CAT scan, helps in a more detailed diagnosis of the chest. It shows images of the blood vessels and tissues in greater clarity as compared to an x-ray.