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X-ray - Chest

Last updated April 25, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Originally discovered by accident, X-rays are now used about 100 million times a year in clinics around the world. How do these magic eyes work? Ge Wang details the history and mechanics of the X-ray machine and CT scanners.

Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Chest X-ray
  • Radiography of Chest
  • X-ray of the Chest

What is X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure? (General Explanation)

  • A Chest X-ray is a noninvasive medical test that produces images of the lungs, heart, airway, mediastinum, blood vessels, and bones of chest wall, by sending individual X-ray particles to the target of exploration
  • An X-ray scan is one of the most common procedures used in hospitals, to help diagnose many conditions

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

The X-ray procedure involves the chest area.

Why is the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure Performed?

A Chest X-ray scan is performed to diagnose medical conditions related to the heart, lungs, and chest wall. These could include the following (and many other types of conditions):

  • Pneumonia
  • Heart failure
  • Chest pain
  • Lung mass, which may be cancerous or non-cancerous
  • Emphysema
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fracture of ribs
  • Pneumothorax
  • Pleural effusion

What is the Equipment used? (Description of Equipment)

  • The equipment for a Chest X-ray may consist of:
    • A table, on which the patient lies
    • An X-ray tube and machine above the table
  • If the patient cannot be taken to the X-ray machine room, then portable X-ray machines are used. These are taken to the patient’s room; a flexible arm with X-ray tube is moved over the patient, to take the image
  • In the emergency room, portable machines are also used, as they can be easily transported to the patient’s room

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

There have been no recent advances to replace the X-ray scan procedure.

What is the Cost of performing the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

The cost of a Chest X-ray procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused with a sudden inflow of information regarding a Chest X-ray procedure and what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple steps or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently

What are some Helpful Resources?

http://www.fda.gov/radiation-emittingproducts/radiationemittingproductsandprocedures/medicalimaging/medicalx-rays/ucm115318.htm (accessed on 05/28/2014)

Prior to X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure:

How does the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure work?

  • The X-ray scanner uses radio waves that pass through the patient’s body and an image is recorded on a plate, placed on the other side of the patient’s body
  • Various parts of the body absorb radiation in differing amounts and these show up differently, in shades of gray or black, on the plate
  • The ribs and spine absorb much of the radiation and so appear white or gray on the Chest X-ray image. The lung tissues appear darker, as it does not absorb that much radiation

How is the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure Performed?

  • The patient lies down on the examination table and the X-ray tube is positioned above the affected part, or region to be imaged
  • The patient is asked to remain motionless or still, in order to avoid any blurriness of the image taken
  • The radiology technologist takes the Chest X-ray image, by the use of a control panel

Where is the Procedure Performed?

A Chest X-ray is generally performed as an outpatient procedure, at a hospital.

Who Performs the Procedure?

A Chest X-ray is usually taken by a radiology technologist.

How long will the Procedure take?

An X-ray - Chest procedure should take about 10 minutes.

Who interprets the Result?

  • A radiologist interprets the Chest X-ray results and informs the primary care physician, who then conveys the information to the patient
  • Follow-up examinations are also done, to observe the progress of treatment and healing

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

  • Patients are asked to remove any kind of metal objects from their body, including glasses, dental work, or jewelry, as metal objects interferes with the images
  • Women are advised to inform the physician, if they are pregnant, before a Chest X-ray is taken

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for a Chest X-ray scan procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied with the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What are the Benefits versus Risks, for this Procedure?

Following are the benefits of the X-ray - Chest procedure:

  • An X-ray scan is a painless, quick, and a non-invasive procedure
  • It is easily available and is (relatively) not expensive
  • An X-ray scan is very useful in detecting joint problems or bone fractures
  • The radiation does not remain in the patient’s body after the procedure

Following are the risks of the X-ray - Chest procedure:

  • Since radiation is used in a Chest X-ray procedure, there is a very slight risk of cancer
  • It is highly advised that women inform their doctors if they are pregnant, prior to the procedure

What are the Limitations of the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

Following are limitations of the X-ray - Chest procedure:

  • Some abnormalities in the chest, such as a pulmonary embolism or small-sized cancer, do not appear on an X-ray scan
  • Further imaging studies, such as MRI or CT scan, may be necessary to aid the diagnosis, or to further analyze the abnormality found in the X-ray

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your healthcare provider or physician are as follows:

  • What is a Chest X-ray scan procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place, during recovery?
  • What are the possible side effects from the procedure? How can I minimize these side effects?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any lifestyle restrictions or modifications required, after the procedure is performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • Is there any medication that needs to be taken for life, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the X-ray of the Chest Procedure:

What is to be expected during X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

  • A Chest X-ray procedure is a non-invasive procedure; the test will not cause any pain
  • The table you lie on may feel hard and the room may be cool
  • It may be difficult to lie still, during the procedure
  • Some individuals may feel nervous inside the X-ray scanner area

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

No anesthesia is administered during the Chest X-ray procedure.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

There is no blood loss during a Chest X-ray procedure.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

There remains a slight possibility of cancer occurrence, due to radiation.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

There is no post-operative care required, after an X-ray scan.

After the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure:

What is to be expected after the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

Generally, no complications or side effects are observed after the Chest X-ray procedure.

When do you need to call your Physician?

If the patient is experiencing an allergic reaction from the contrast reaction (if any given); then, do contact the physician.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

There is no post-operative care necessary after the Chest X-ray scan.

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

The patient needs no recovery time after a Chest X-ray.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

No tissue is extracted from the patient during a Chest X-ray procedure.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is removed during the procedure, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the X-ray of the Chest radiology procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers. 

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The hospital, where the procedure is performed
  • Radiologist or neurologist, performing the procedure
  • Healthcare providers, physicians, who are involved in the process

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before the Chest X-ray procedure is performed.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: June 10, 2014
Last updated: April 25, 2018