Chest X-ray
all information

Chest X-ray

(Chest Radiography)

En Español (Spanish Version)


A chest x-ray is a photograph-like image of the heart and lungs that uses a small dose of radiation to create a picture. It is one of the most common medical tests performed.

Parts of the Body Involved

  • Heart
  • Blood vessels near the heart
  • Lungs
  • Ribs and other bones

Detailed Chest X-ray

x-ray chest collapsed lung

X-ray of damaged lung.

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

Chest x-rays are done to look for abnormalities of the heart, lungs, bones, or blood vessels in the chest. Your doctor may order a chest x-ray in response to certain symptoms or to help diagnose a medical condition.

Common symptoms requiring a chest x-ray include:

  • Bad or persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Chest injury
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Falls

The following conditions can be diagnosed by a chest x-ray:

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

Chest x-rays are done using a small dose of radiation. A lead apron is used to shield the abdomen and pelvis to minimize the risk of even this small dose of radiation. If you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, inform your doctor or the x-ray technician. X-rays are generally avoided during the first two trimesters or throughout pregnancy.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Chest x-rays can be performed in a hospital, an outside lab, or doctor’s office. You will be asked to remove all jewelry from the waist up and put on a hospital gown.


There is no need for anesthesia during a chest x-ray.

Description of the Procedure

Pictures are taken from two different views, a side view and a front view. An x-ray technician will position you according to the type of x-ray machine used. Most commonly you will be asked to 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.

After Procedure

Once the x-rays are completed you are free to go.

How Long Will It Take?

The process generally takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Will It Hurt?

The procedure is painless.

Possible Complications

None, unless you are pregnant

Average Hospital Stay

X-rays do not require hospital stays.

Postoperative Care

There are no actions to take after x-rays.


A radiologist (a doctor who specializes in x-rays) will evaluate your x-ray and send a report to your doctor. Results are generally available in 1 to 2 days. An abnormal x-ray may require further testing including a chest computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If an abnormal growth is seen, a biopsy may be ordered.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

There are no reported complications after this procedure.


American Heart Association

Radiology Info


Radiology for Patients

Sick Kids


Chest. Radiological Society of North America. Radiography website. Available at: Accessed on July 11, 2008.

Chest X-rays: sorting out problems in your chest. website. Available at: Accessed on July 11, 2008.

Zaret BL, Jatlow PI, and Katz LD. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient’s Guide to Medical Tests. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company;1997:134-136.

Last reviewed November 2007 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Your Health and Happiness