What to Expect During a Chest X-ray

Typically, two views of the chest are taken, one from the back and oner from the side of the body as you stand against an image recording plate. A specially trained technician will position you with hands on hips and chest pressed the image plate. For the second view, your side is against the image plate with arms elevated.

Patients who cannot stand may be positioned lying down on a table for chest X-rays.

You must hold very still and may be asked to keep from breathing for a few seconds while the X-ray picture is taken to reduce the possibility of a blurred image. The technician will walk behind a wall or into the next room to activate the X-ray machine.

When the examination is complete, you will be asked to wait until the radiologist determines that all the necessary images have been obtained.

Time Consideration

A chest x-ray is usually completed within 15 minutes.

Additional views may be required within hours, days or months to evaluate any changes in the chest.

Other Factors

A chest x-ray itself is a painless procedure.

The examination room and the recording plate may be cold. Individuals with arthritis or injuries to the chest wall, shoulders or arms may have discomfort trying to stay still during the examination. The technician will help you find the most comfortable position possible without sacrificing diagnostic image quality.

Chest X-ray Limitations

The chest x-ray is a very useful examination, but it has limitations. Because some conditions of the chest cannot be detected on a conventional chest x-ray image, this examination cannot necessarily rule out all problems in the chest. For example, small cancers may not show up on a chest x-ray. A blood clot in the lungs, a condition called a pulmonary embolism, cannot be seen on chest x-rays.

Further imaging studies may be necessary to clarify the results of a chest x-ray or to look for abnormalities not visible on the chest x-ray.