What Can a Chest X-Ray Detect?

Doctors commonly use X-rays to study images of their patients' bodies to make diagnoses and prescribe effective treatments. If you're experiencing chest pain, coughing, or shortness of breath, a doctor may use a chest X-ray to analyze your heart and lungs. Review this guide to learn what a chest X-ray can detect, why a physician may recommend one, and what you can expect during this procedure.

What Is a Chest X-Ray?

A chest X-ray, also known as a chest radiograph, is an examination that produces images of the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and bones of the spine and chest. Doctors use chest X-rays, a common form of medical imaging, to diagnose and treat conditions related to the heart and lungs. X-rays use small doses of radiation to create images of the inside of your body.

Why Would a Health Care Provider Recommend a Chest X-Ray?

A doctor may request a chest X-ray for various reasons. X-ray images can show a doctor if you have heart or lung disease. These images can also help diagnose other conditions, including pneumonia, broken ribs, emphysema, congestive heart failure, and lung cancer. Over time, a series of chest X-rays can help a doctor determine the effectiveness of the treatment you're receiving for those issues.

If you're exhibiting certain symptoms, a doctor may use a chest X-ray to evaluate your heart, lungs, and chest. These symptoms include:

  • Chest pain.
  • Severe or chronic cough.
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Fever and signs of infection.

What Can a Chest X-Ray Detect?

A chest X-ray can provide a comprehensive picture of your heart and lungs. Specifically, a physician may use a chest X-ray to check the following things:

Condition of Your Lungs

A health care provider may use a chest X-ray to evaluate the condition of your lungs. These images can help doctors detect cancer, infection, or chronic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis. Some lung-related conditions may be the result of heart problems, such as fluid in your lungs because of congestive heart failure. Chest X-rays can help physicians determine whether you're experiencing complications because of those conditions.

Shape of Your Heart

A chest X-ray can provide a physician with an accurate image of the size and outline of your heart. Noticeable changes in the shape of your heart may stem from heart failure or problems with the valves.

Blood Vessels

Physicians often use chest X-rays to evaluate patients' blood vessels. This type of X-ray captures images of the blood vessels near the heart, which can help health care providers detect aneurysms or congenital heart disease.

Calcium Deposits

A chest X-ray can show whether there are calcium deposits in your heart or blood vessels. These deposits may indicate damage to the heart valves, coronary arteries, or heart muscle. Deposits that have calcified in your lungs may reveal a previous infection, which can cause complications.

Changes After Operations

If you have surgery on your heart or lungs, your doctor will typically take chest X-rays during your recovery to monitor your post-operative progress. These X-ray images can help your doctor monitor the surgical site for leaks, fluid, or air buildup.

Placement of Devices

A doctor will typically take a chest X-ray after placing a device, such as a pacemaker or catheter, into your body. Your physician will study the X-ray to make sure the device is in the correct position.

What To Expect During a Chest X-Ray

A radiology technologist typically performs a chest X-ray. Before the procedure, the technologist will ask you to change into a medical gown and remove any items that may interfere with the images, such as jewelry or eyeglasses.

The technologist typically takes two views of your chest. For the first view, you will usually stand with your hands on your hips and your chest against the image plate of the X-ray machine. For the second part, you will stand with your side against the image plate and your arms in the air. During the X-ray, the technologist will ask you to stand still and hold your breath, since breathing can cause blurry images.

You won't be able to feel the radiation as the technologist takes the X-rays, and it's typically a painless procedure. If you're unable to stand for the images, the technologist may ask you to sit or lie down instead.

Risks of Chest X-Rays

Many people who have this common form of medical imaging in Grapevine, Texas, have questions about their exposure to radiation during a chest X-ray. The procedure uses only a small amount of radiation, and the risks related to this are very low for adults, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you're pregnant or may be pregnant, always consult with your health care provider before getting a chest X-ray. Often, a technologist can adjust the procedure to prevent radiation exposure to your abdomen.

When To Expect Your Chest X-Ray Results

Typically, it only takes a few minutes for a radiology technologist to produce images of your heart and lungs. After the procedure, the technologist will analyze the images and quickly send the report to your physician. If it's an emergency, the doctor will usually discuss your results with you the same day, often in a few minutes or hours. If you're not experiencing a medical emergency, the doctor may discuss your results with you in one or two days.

When Should You Consult a Physician for a Chest X-Ray?

If you believe you could benefit from having a chest X-ray done, consult with your health care provider about this procedure. Your doctor can assess your symptoms and decide whether to perform a chest X-ray. In general, you should always consult your health care provider about the possibility of heart or lung issues if you experience any of the following:

  • Suspected chest injury, such as a broken rib.
  • Chest pain that worsens or won't go away.
  • Chronic coughing.
  • Breathing difficulties or consistent shortness of breath.

X-Ray Imaging Near Fort Worth, Texas

Medical imaging, including X-rays, can help physicians make faster diagnoses so you can understand what's happening inside your body. At Grapevine Imaging, we provide fast and dependable imaging services for patients and physicians in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Our convenient location in Grapevine, Texas, can help you access the care you need right away. We use state-of-the-art imaging equipment to perform scans, and our expert staff can answer any questions you may have about the imaging process. Contact us today for more information.

Normal PA chest x-ray by Atlas of Pulmonary Pathology is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

2401 Ira E. Woods Ave, #600
Grapevine, TX 76051

(817) 488-9991