Chest X-Ray

A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the chest, lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and diaphragm. It may be ordered as a routine pre-operative test, when symptoms such as a persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, are present , if chest disease is suspected, or if chest injury has occurred. Serial chest X-rays may be used to evaluate changes that have occurred since the previous X-ray was taken.

Before the X-ray

  • Inform your health care provider if you are pregnant. Chest x-rays are generally avoided during the 1st and 2nd trimesters of pregnancy (the first six months).
  • You must wear a hospital gown and remove all your jewelry.

During the X-ray

  • You will be asked to stand in front of the x-ray machine, pressing your chest against the film plate. The film plate may be cold, but there should be no other discomfort.
  • The technician will ask you to hold your breath while the x-rays are taken. Usually, this will involve two views: one in which the x-rays pass through the chest from the back (posterior-anterior view), and one in which the x- rays pass through the chest from one side to the other (lateral view).


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