What is a Chest X-Ray

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What Is a Chest X-Ray?

A chest x ray is a painless, noninvasive test that creates pictures of the structures inside your chest, such as your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. "Noninvasive" means that no surgery is done and no instruments are inserted into your body.

This test is done to find the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, chronic cough (a cough that lasts a long time), and fever.

What to expect before a Chest X-Ray

You don't have to do anything special to prepare for a chest x ray. However, you may want to wear a shirt that's easy to take off. Before the test, you'll be asked to undress from the waist up and wear a gown.

You also may want to avoid wearing jewelry and other metal objects. You'll be asked to take off any jewelry, eyeglasses, and metal objects that might interfere with the x-ray picture. Let the x-ray technician (a person specially trained to do x-ray tests) know if you have any body piercings on your chest.

Let your doctor know if you're pregnant or may be pregnant. In general, women should avoid all x-ray tests during pregnancy. Sometimes, though, having an x ray is important to the health of the mother and fetus. If an x ray is needed, the technician will take extra steps to protect the fetus from radiation.

What To Expect During a Chest X Ray

Chest x rays are done at doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, and other health care facilities. The location depends on the situation. An x-ray technician oversees the test. This person is specially trained to do x-ray tests.

The entire test usually takes about 15 minutes.

Depending on your doctor's request, you'll stand, sit, or lie for the chest x ray. The technician will help position you correctly. He or she may cover you with a heavy lead apron to protect certain parts of your body from the radiation.

Usually, two views of the chest are taken. The first is a view from the back or front. The second is a view from the side.

You'll need to hold very still while the pictures are taken. The technician may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds. These steps help prevent a blurry picture.

Although the test is painless, you may feel some discomfort from the coolness of the exam room and the x-ray plate. If you have arthritis or injuries to the chest wall, shoulders, or arms, you may feel discomfort holding a position during the test. The technician may be able to help you find a more comfortable position.

When the test is done, you'll need to wait while the technician checks the quality of the x-ray pictures. He or she needs to make sure that the pictures are good enough for the doctor to use.

What To Expect After a Chest X Ray

You usually can go back to your normal routine right after a chest x ray.

A radiologist will analyze, or "read," your x-ray images. This doctor is specially trained to supervise x-ray tests and look at the x-ray pictures.

The radiologist will send a report to your doctor (who requested the x-ray test). Your doctor will discuss the results with you.

In an emergency, you'll get the x-ray results right away. Otherwise, it may take 24 hours or more. Talk with your doctor about when you should expect the results.