by Editorial Staff and Contributors
A chest x-ray is an image of the heart and lungs and other structures in the chest. A small dose of radiation is used to create the image. It is one of the most common medical tests done.
Reasons for Test TOP
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:
Possible Complications TOP
Chest x-rays are done using a 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 TOP
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 plate 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 TOP
You will be able to leave after the test is done.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 10-15 minutes
Will It Hurt? TOP
A specialist will look at your x-ray and send a report to your doctor. Results are generally available in 1-2 days.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Call your doctor if you have any concerns after the test.
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Heart Association
Radiology Info.org—Radiological Society of North America, Inc.
Radiology for Patients
X-ray (radiography)—chest. Radiological Society of North America website. Available at:
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Updated March 16, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/10/2014