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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Who can interpret chest X-rays?

Many doctors are trained to interpret chest X-rays. In addition to radiologists, who have special training in reading all radiology films, primary care physicians, internists, pediatricians, emergency room doctors, anesthesiologists, heart doctors (cardiologist), lung doctors (pulmonologist) and lung surgeons are the doctors who frequently interpret chest X-rays as a part of their routine practice.

What can be seen on a normal chest X-ray?

Normal chest X-ray shows normal size and shape of the chest wall and the main structures in the chest.

As described earlier, white shadows on the chest X-ray signify solid structures and fluids such as, bone of the rib cage, vertebrae, heart, aorta, and bones of the shoulders. The dark background on the chest X-rays represents air filled lungs. These lung fields are seen on either side of the heart and the vertebrae located in the center of the film.

What are some common chest X-ray abnormalities?

Chest X-ray is generally used in combination with other clinical data such as, physical examination and the patient's history and symptoms. It can also be used in combination of other radiology test to support, confirm, or exclude many conditions or diagnoses.

A chest X-ray can be used to define abnormalities of the lungs such as excessive fluid (fluid overload or pulmonary edema), fluid around the lung (pleural effusion), pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, cysts, and cancers. Heart abnormalities, including fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion), an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), heart failure, or abnormal anatomy of the heart can be revealed on the films. Certain bony structures of the chest and broken bones (rib fracture) or abnormalities of the bones of the spine (vertebral fracture) in the chest can often be detected.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"What is a chest X-ray?"
National Institutes of Health

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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