Chest x-ray

Chest X-ray

A chest x-ray produces a black and white image of your heart, lungs, airways, main blood vessels and the bones in your chest and spine.

It allows doctors to closely examine your heart, lungs and chest wall.

Why might I have a chest x-ray?

If you have symptoms such as feeling short of breath, a chest x-ray can help doctors find out if it’s caused by a heart or lung condition or whether it might be caused by something else.

If your doctor thinks you may have a heart condition, he or she will probably arrange for you to have other tests too.

Examples of heart conditions that can be assessed by a chest x-ray include heart failurecongenital heart disease and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart).

What happens during a chest x-ray?

You will firstly need to remove your clothes down to your waist, put on a hospital gown and also take off anything metallic you are wearing such as jewellery or glasses.

You will stand with your chest pressed to a photographic plate and the radiographer (the health professional who takes the x-rays) will ask you to keep still and take a deep breath and hold it (this helps to improve the quality of the x-ray image). While you are doing this, the equipment will be turned on which sends a beam of x-rays from the x-ray source to the photographic plate, which produces an image.

You may have a number of x-rays taken from different angles, but they only take a few seconds each time and the whole process usually lasts around fifteen minutes. The radiographer will check the images before you leave to make sure that there are pictures of your whole chest.

Having a chest x-ray is painless. The main discomfort you may feel is from the photographic plate as it’s a bit cold and hard.

If you are pregnant or think you might be, make sure you tell your doctor as they may suggest you avoid having a chest x-ray during your pregnancy.

Want to find out more?

Tests booklet

Tests for heart conditions booklet

This booklet describes the special tests that are commonly used to help diagnose heart diseases.

Some of the tests are also used to assess the current condition of people who have already been diagnosed with heart disease.