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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Where are chest X-ray's performed?

Chest X-rays are one the most commonly ordered radiology tests. Once they are ordered by a physician, they can be performed in hospitals, emergency rooms, outpatient radiology facilities, and some doctors offices.

What are the risks of a chest X-ray?

Chest X-rays expose the patient briefly to a minimum amount of radiation. Any radiation exposure has some risk to the tissues of the body. The radiation exposure in a chest X-ray is minimized by the type of X-ray high-speed film, which does not require as much radiation exposure as in the past. The radiology technician is guided by technique standards which have been established by national and international guidelines. These guidelines are designed and reviewed by both the Department of Health and Human Services and national and international radiology protection councils.

Women, who are pregnant, especially in early pregnancy, should notify their physicians, as the fetus is at risk for harm with any radiology technique. X-rays are typically avoided in pregnant patients unless absolutely necessary, in which case, the patient's abdomen is covered with a special gown to deflect the radiation from the fetus.

What are reasons for ordering chest X-rays?

There are many reasons why doctors order chest X-rays. Frequently, they are ordered for symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, or chest pain. However, there are many other signs and symptoms that may prompt a doctor to order chest X-rays. They may also be done as a routine check examination.

Sometimes chest X-rays are required before operations to see if there is any evidence of heart or lung disease that may need to be addressed before the procedure. This is called a pre-operative chest X-ray (or pre-op chest X-ray requirement).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/29/2015
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