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.
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:
Chest x-rays are done using a very 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.
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.
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 machine 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.
You will be able to leave after the test is done.
About 10-15 minutes.
Call your doctor if you have any concerns after the test.
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
Radiology for Patients
Chest x-rays: sorting out problems in your chest. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chest-x-rays/MY00297. Updated May 21, 2011. Accessed on March 28, 2013.
X-ray (Radiography), Chest. Radiological Society of North America. Radiology Info website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=chestrad&bhcp=1. Updated March 15, 2013. Accessed on March 28, 2013.
Last reviewed February 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 3/28/2013