What can you expect from a chest x-ray?

A chest x-ray can show your doctor the inner workings of some of your body’s most vital organs, bones, and tissues. It uses a small dose of ionizing radiation to create a picture of the inside of your chest, including your heart, lungs, chest bones, and blood vessels.

Chest x-rays are the most common x-ray procedure performed in the United States, largely due to their convenience and efficiency. The procedure is fast, painless, and requires little to no preparation, making it an ideal tool for diagnosing chest pain in emergency situations as well as monitoring chest conditions over time.

What can a chest x-ray show?

A lot of vital processes happen inside your chest. It’s the home of your heart and lungs, which are responsible for supplying your entire body with oxygen and blood. A chest x-ray can help your healthcare provider assess how everything’s working and diagnose any medical conditions in that area that may need treatment. They can use the picture to examine:

  • The size and shape of your heart
  • Blood vessels near your heart, including veins, aorta, and pulmonary arteries
  • Calcium deposits in your heart or blood vessels
  • The condition of your lungs
  • The condition of your ribs and spine
  • Internal changes during recovery from chest surgery
  • Pacemaker, defibrillator, or catheter placement

Why might your doctor recommend a chest x-ray?

Your healthcare provider may recommend a chest x-ray if you’re experiencing any symptoms that could be caused by problems in your chest, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Bad or persistent cough
  • Fever

They may also suggest a chest x-ray to monitor any known conditions in your chest, which may include:

  • Recovery from heart, lung, or other surgery
  • Broken ribs or spinal injuries
  • Pneumonia
  • Fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer
  • Heart failure or other heart conditions
  • Heart abnormalities
  • Placement of medical devices

How should you prepare for your chest x-ray?

You won’t have to do much to prepare for your chest x-ray. Plan to wear comfortable, loose, metal-free fitting clothing to your appointment (although your technician may have you change into a medical gown before your scan). You’ll have to take off your jewelry, glasses, and hairpins before your x-ray, so leave any non-essential accessories at home. Let your doctor know if you have any body piercings, as they may either ask you to remove them or replace your body jewelry with a plastic or acrylic alternative. 

What happens during a chest x-ray?

During the procedure, the x-ray technician will capture images of your chest from different angles. To do this, they’ll have you stand in front of a metal x-ray plate while they use the machine to take pictures. First, you’ll stand with your back to the plate and your hands on your hips while they take x-rays of the front of your chest. Then, you’ll stand with your side to the plate and your hands in the air above your head so the technician can photograph the side of your chest. 

If you cannot stand, the technician may position you lying on a table and take the pictures from there. Whether you’re standing or lying down, the whole process should only take a few minutes. Make sure to stay as still as possible while getting your x-rays taken because any movement can blur the pictures.

You may need to wait in the office while the technician or doctor reviews your images. If they’re blurry, they may have you retake some of the x-rays. Once you’re finished, your images will be sent to a radiologist for review. Then, they’ll send a report to your healthcare provider so they can discuss your results with you.

What are the risks of a chest x-ray?

Chest x-rays carry the same risk as any diagnostic imaging test that uses ionizing radiation. Exposure to radiation carries a slight risk of cancer. However, the dosage used in x-rays is so small that the benefit of an accurate diagnosis significantly outweighs the risk. No radiation stays in your body after the x-ray exam, and no side effects are associated with this procedure.

How can you find a fair price for your chest x-ray?

It can be difficult — bordering on impossible — to find an accurate price for your chest x-ray before you go in for the procedure. You may find some luck asking the facility for a cost estimate, but not always. Even when you get an estimate, it doesn’t always include all the extra fees you may find on your final bill. New Choice Health’s cost comparison tool can help you compare chest x-ray prices from different facilities in your area and choose which one is right for you. Visit our site to get started today!



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New Choice Health, Inc.
(850) 898-1410
3 W Garden St. STE 206
Pensacola, FL 32502

service@newchoicehealth.com