• Chest X-ray

    (Chest Radiography)


    A chest x-ray is an image of the heart and lungs. A small dose of radiation is used to create the image. It is one of the most common medical tests done.

    Reasons for Test

    Chest x-rays are done to look for abnormalities of your heart, lungs, bones, or blood vessels in your chest. Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have certain symptoms, such as:
    • Bad or persistent cough
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Coughing up blood
    • Chest pain
    • Chest injury
    • Fever

    Possible Complications

    Chest x-rays are done using a very small dose of radiation. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor or the x-ray technician. X-rays are generally avoided during pregnancy, if possible.

    What to Expect

    Prior to Test

    You will be asked to remove all jewelry from the waist up. You will also put on a hospital gown. A lead apron may be placed over your abdomen and pelvis. This is done to minimize the risks of radiation.

    Description of Test

    Pictures are usually taken from both a side view and a front view. An x-ray technician will position you according to the type of x-ray machine used. In most cases, you will stand against the x-ray machine with your hands up or to the side. You will be asked to take a deep breath and hold it while the x-ray is being taken. You will also be asked to stay as still as possible when the film is taken. You may notice that the film cartridge feels cool to your skin.

    After Test

    You will be able to leave after the test is done.

    How Long Will It Take?

    About 10-15 minutes

    Will It Hurt?



    A radiologist (a doctor who specializes in x-rays) will look at your x-ray and send a report to your doctor. Results are generally available in 1-2 days.
    An abnormal x-ray may require further testing, including:
    • CT scan—A type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside your body
    • MRI scan—A test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside your body
    • Biopsy—Removal of a sample of tissue

    Call Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if you have any concerns after the test.
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org

    Radiology Info.org http://www.radiologyinfo.org


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Radiology for Patients http://www.radiologyinfo.ca


    Chest. Radiological Society of North America. Radiology Info.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=chestrad&bhcp=1. Accessed on July 11, 2008.

    Chest x-rays: sorting out problems in your chest. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chest-x-rays/MY00297. Accessed on July 11, 2008.

    Zaret BL, Jatlow PI, et al. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1997: 134-136.

    Revision Information

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.