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Chest X-ray


A chest x-ray is an image of the heart and lungs and other structures in the chest. A small dose of radiation is used to create the image. It is one of the most common medical tests done.

Reasons for Test

Chest x-rays are done to look for abnormalities of your heart, lungs, bones, or blood vessels in your chest. Your doctor may order a chest x-ray if you have certain symptoms, such as:

  • Bad or persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Chest injury
  • Fever
  • Abnormality of the rib cage
  • Evidence of cancer

Possible Complications

Chest x-rays are done using a small dose of radiation. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, tell your doctor or the x-ray technician. X-rays are generally avoided during pregnancy, if possible.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

You will be asked to remove all jewelry from the waist up. You will also put on a hospital gown. A lead apron may be placed over your abdomen and pelvis. This is done to minimize the risks of radiation.

Description of Test

Pictures are usually taken from both a side view and a front view. An x-ray technician will position you according to the type of x-ray machine used. In most cases, you will stand against the x-ray plate with your hands up or to the side. You will be asked to take a deep breath and hold it while the x-ray is being taken. You will also be asked to stay as still as possible when the film is taken. You may notice that the film cartridge feels cool to your skin.

After Test

You will be able to leave after the test is done.

How Long Will It Take?

About 10-15 minutes

Will It Hurt?



A specialist will look at your x-ray and send a report to your doctor. Results are generally available in 1-2 days.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any concerns after the test.

In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

Revision Information

  • American Heart Association

  • Radiology—Radiological Society of North America, Inc.

  • Health Canada

  • Radiology for Patients

  • X-ray (radiography)—chest. Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Updated March 16, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. TriStar Health does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.