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Chest x-ray

Chest radiography; Serial chest x-ray; X-ray - chest

A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the chest, lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and diaphragm.


Aortic rupture - chest X-ray
Lung cancer - frontal chest X-ray
Adenocarcinoma - chest x-ray
Coal worker's lungs - chest x-ray
Coccidioidomycosis - chest X-ray
Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II
Coal workers pneumoconiosis - stage II
Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated
Coal workers pneumoconiosis, complicated
Tuberculosis, advanced - chest X-rays
Pulmonary nodule - front view chest x-ray
Sarcoid, stage II - chest X-ray
Sarcoid, stage IV - chest x-ray
Pulmonary mass - side view chest X-ray
Bronchial cancer - chest X-ray
Lung nodule, right middle lobe - chest X-ray
Lung mass, right upper lung - chest X-ray
Lung nodule - front view chest X-ray

I Would Like to Learn About:

How the Test is Performed

You stand in front of the x-ray machine. You will be told to hold your breath when the x-ray is taken.

Two images are usually taken. You will first need to stand facing the machine, and then sideways.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell the health care provider if you are pregnant. Chest x-rays are generally not done during pregnancy, and special precautions are taken if they are needed.

How the Test will Feel

There is no discomfort. The imaging plate may feel cold.

Why the Test is Performed

Your provider may order a chest x-ray if you have any of the following symptoms:

It may also be done if you have signs of tuberculosis, lung cancer, or other chest or lung diseases.

A serial chest x-ray is one that is repeated. It may be done to monitor changes found on a past chest x-ray.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to many things, including:

In the lungs:

In the heart:

In the bones:

In the mediastinum (middle part of the chest):


There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the benefits outweigh the risks. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

Related Information

Coughing up blood
Chest pain
Pulmonary tuberculosis
Lung cancer - small cell
Lung disease
Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
Pleural effusion
Cerebral arteriovenous malformation
Community-acquired pneumonia in adults
Broken bone
Heart attack
Acute mountain sickness
Simple pulmonary eosinophilia
Adult Still disease
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
Aortic dissection
Aortic regurgitation
Aortic stenosis
Acute respiratory distress syndrome
Aspiration pneumonia
Atrial septal defect (ASD)
Atypical pneumonia
Breast cancer
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
Rheumatoid pneumoconiosis
Cardiac tamponade
Brain abscess
Coal worker's pneumoconiosis
Coarctation of the aorta
Diaphragmatic hernia
Interstitial lung disease
Dilated cardiomyopathy
Disseminated tuberculosis
Drug-induced lupus erythematosus
Drug-induced pulmonary disease
Anti-glomerular basement membrane disease
Heart failure
Histoplasmosis - acute (primary) pulmonary
Hodgkin lymphoma
Hospital-acquired pneumonia
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
Hypertensive heart disease
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
Industrial bronchitis
Legionnaires disease
Malignant hypertension
Solitary fibrous tumor
Malignant mesothelioma
Metastatic brain tumor
Lung metastases
Metastatic pleural tumor
Mitral valve regurgitation
Mitral stenosis
Mitral valve prolapse
Mycoplasma pneumonia
Necrotizing vasculitis
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Occupational asthma
Patent ductus arteriosus
Pericarditis - after heart attack
Peripartum cardiomyopathy
Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia
Pneumonia - weakened immune system
Premature infant
Primary alveolar hypoventilation
Pulmonary hypertension
Pulmonary actinomycosis
Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis
Pulmonary aspergilloma
Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary embolus
Pulmonary nocardiosis
Pulmonic valve stenosis
Pulmonary veno-occlusive disease
Q fever
Renal cell carcinoma
Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Restrictive cardiomyopathy
Rheumatoid lung disease
Cardiac amyloidosis
Solitary pulmonary nodule
SVC obstruction
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Testicular cancer
Tetralogy of Fallot
Transient ischemic attack
Transposition of the great arteries
Ventricular septal defect
Viral pneumonia
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
Wilms tumor


Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Chest radiography (chest x-ray, CXR) - diagnostic norm. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:327-328.

Felker GM, Teerlink JR. Diagnosis and management of acute heart failure. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Bhatt DL, Solomon SD, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 49.

Jokerst CE, Gotway MB. Thoracic radiology: noninvasive diagnostic imaging. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 20.


Review Date: 7/31/2022  

Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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