Published: May 16, 2007
Updated: Aug. 22, 2011
What is a chest x-ray?
An x-ray is a test that uses small amounts of x-ray beams to make a picture of the organs or structures in your body. A chest x-ray is used to look at the heart, lungs, and blood vessels in your chest.
Why is it ordered?
This test is ordered when your doctor wants to get general information about your heart and lungs or look for a cause for symptoms that you may be having. Doctors use chest x-rays when a patient has a medical condition, injury, or disease that causes difficulty breathing, a persistent cough, or coughing up blood. It may also be used to determine if a tube or catheter has been placed in the proper position in the chest or if there are any problems that could increase risks from anesthesia.
What should my health care professional know before I have this test done?
Where is this done?
This test is usually done in the Radiology Department either in Duke University Hospital or Duke Clinic. If you are too sick to travel your doctor may order a portable x-ray machine be brought to your hospital room to do the test.
Do I need to have someone drive me home
You will not need to have someone drive you home unless you have receive a medicine to help you relax.
Do I need to do anything to get ready for this
No special preparations are needed before having a chest x-ray. You will be asked to remove any jewelry or clothing that would be in the way of the picture. You will be given a drape or hospital gown to cover yourself while the picture is being taken.
What happens during the procedure?
Your doctor may want to have a picture of your chest in several positions. The radiology technologist may ask you to stand with your chest next to a film holder, lie down on the x-ray table or sit up in your bed. Next, the radiology technologist will tell you how to position your arms and hands to get the best picture. Finally, you will be asked to hold your breath and remain very still while the picture is being taken.
Is this test painful?
The test itself is not uncomfortable and you will not feel the x-ray beam when the picture is taken. However, the x-ray table may feel hard and cold. You may also be asked hold several positions that may be uncomfortable so that the technologist can get a good picture. Ask for assistance in holding these positions if you think you will need it.
How long does it take?
The picture is taken in only a few seconds but it will take five to 10 minutes to get you into the right positions. You will be asked to wait for a few minutes longer until the x-ray film is developed to see if pictures are okay.
What are the risks with this
A chest x-ray is a very safe test. There is a slight risk of damaging cells or tissue from the radiation exposure. However, this risk is very low compared to the potential benefits.
How will I get the results of this
The radiologist will review the x-ray to see if the picture quality is adequate. The x-ray will then be read and a written report will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor or health care provider will discuss the results with you.