Chest X-ray

(Chest Radiography)


X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the inside of the body. This type of x-ray takes a picture of the heart, lungs, and other structures in the chest.

Reasons for Test

This test may be done to look for problems in the heart, lungs, bones, or blood vessels in the chest, such as:

  • Bad or lasting cough
  • Problems breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Chest injury
  • Fever
  • Changes in the rib cage
  • Signs that point to cancer

Possible Complications

X-rays do not cause short-term health complications. But radiation doses may build up in the body over time. The more x-rays you have, the more radiation there will be. This can raise the risk of some cancers. The risk is higher in children and women who could get or are pregnant.

Lead safety shields are used during x-rays. They help lower the amount of radiation to the body.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

The care team will meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Whether you may be pregnant

Description of Test

You will be asked to remove any jewelry.

A lead shield may be placed on other parts of the body. This will help to lower exposure to radiation.

Most people will be asked to stand against the x-ray plate with their hands up or to the side. It will depend on the type of machine used. Pictures are usually taken from both a side view and a front view. 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. The device will send x-rays through your body. The x-rays will be captured on the other side of the body by a computer or on film.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10 to 15 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Most people do not have any problems after this test. You will be able to go back to normal activities.


The x-ray will be sent to a doctor who specializes in reading them. Your doctor will share the results with you.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Heart Association
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America


Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Radiation Protection Association


Reducing radiation from medical x-rays. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at:
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Accessed September 14, 2020.
X-ray (radiography). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Accessed September 14, 2020.
X-ray (radiography)—chest. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at:,diagnose%20and%20treat%20medical%20conditions. Accessed September 16, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN
Last Updated: 3/26/2021

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