Why do I need a chest X-ray?
Your doctor may order a chest X-ray if they suspect that your symptoms have a connection to problems in your chest. Suspicious symptoms may include:
- chest pain
- persistent cough
- shortness of breath
These symptoms could 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
- pneumothorax (a collection of air in the space between your lungs and your chest wall)
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 issues with heart function.
Doctors sometimes use chest X-rays to monitor your progress after surgery to the chest area. Doctors can check to see that any implanted materials are in the right place, and they can make sure you’re not experiencing any air leaks or fluid buildup.
How is a chest X-ray performed?
The X-ray occurs in a special room with a movable X-ray camera attached to a large metal arm. You will stand next to a “plate.” This plate may contain X-ray film or a special sensor that records the images on a computer. You’ll wear a lead apron to cover your genitals. This is because your sperm (men) and eggs (women) could be damaged from the radiation.
The X-ray technician will tell you how to stand and will record both front and side views of your chest. While the images are taken, you’ll need to hold your breath so that your chest stays completely still. If you move, the images might turn out blurry. As the radiation passes through your body and onto the plate, denser materials, such as bone and the muscles of your heart, will appear white.
After the images have been captured — which should take 20 minutes or so — your part is complete. You can change back into your clothes and go about your day.