Chest X-Ray

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How do doctors interpret chest X-rays?

A radiologist is a physician specialist trained to interpret images of the body produced on films. After the films are produced by the technician they are developed and reviewed by the radiologist for interpretation. After the radiologist reviews the chest X-ray, occasionally further images or angles may be necessary. Once all the films have been reviewed by the radiologist, a report is generated which is transmitted to the ordering practitioner.

In the past, the doctors interpreting the films placed the films in front of a source of light for better visualization of the shadows on the chest X-ray. This usually consisted of a fluorescent light source placed in metal box and covered by a white plastic.

More recently, newer technology has replaced this old reading technique in many health care facilities and radiology offices. This advanced technology has eliminated the need for the actual physical films to be used and placed on a light box for interpretation. The images, once taken and developed, are uploaded into a computer with special software that enables digital images to be viewed on a computer screen. The doctor can look at the images on the screen, interpret the results, and comment on the computer all within minutes after the images were taken.

Additionally, this technology allows for ability to easily look at any previous images taken from the same patient. It also essentially eliminates the possibility of lost X-rays and speeds up the interpretation of X-rays, and the communication between doctors about the results.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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