Chest X-Ray


An X-ray is a quick, painless and noninvasive procedure using a focused beam of radiation to produce images of the inside of your body and help detect a range of conditions. Chest X-rays look specifically at your heart, lungs and bones.


What is it for?

A chest X-ray can reveal many things inside your body, including:

  • The condition of your lungs. Chest X-rays can detect cancer, infection or air collecting in the space around a lung, which can cause the lung to collapse. They can also show chronic lung conditions, such as emphysema or cystic fibrosis, as well as complications related to these conditions. 

Note, however, that chest X-rays cannot give a definitive lung cancer diagnosis because they often cannot distinguish between cancer and other conditions like a lung abscess (a collection of pus that forms in the lungs). If a chest X-ray suggests you may have lung cancer, you should be referred to a specialist in chest conditions.

  • Heart-related lung problems. Chest X-rays can show changes or problems in your lungs stemming from heart problems. For instance, fluid in your lungs can be a result of congestive heart failure.
  • The size and outline of your heart. Changes in the size and shape of your heart may indicate heart failure, fluid around the heart or heart valve problems.
  • Blood vessels. Because the outlines of the large vessels near your heart — the aorta and pulmonary arteries and veins — are visible on X-rays, they may reveal aortic aneurysms, other blood vessel problems or congenital heart disease.
  • Calcium deposits. Chest X-rays can detect the presence of calcium in your heart or blood vessels. Its presence may indicate fats and other substances in your vessels, damage to your heart valves, coronary arteries, heart muscle or the protective sac that surrounds the heart. Calcified nodules in your lungs are most often from an old, resolved infection.
  • Fractures. Rib or spine fractures or other problems with bone may be seen on a chest X-ray.
  • Postoperative changes. Chest X-rays are useful for monitoring your recovery after you have had surgery in your chest, such as on your heart, lungs or oesophagus. Your doctor can look at any lines or tubes that were placed during surgery to check for air leaks and areas of fluid or air buildup.
  • A pacemaker, defibrillator or catheter. Pacemakers and defibrillators have wires attached to your heart to help control your heart rate and rhythm. Catheters are small tubes used to deliver medications or for dialysis. A chest X-ray usually is taken after placement of such medical devices to make sure everything is positioned correctly.



How should you prepare for a chest X-ray?

Chest X-rays require little to no preparation. 

🥗 You can eat and drink normally beforehand. Take your medicines as normal. 

👕 When you come for a chest X-ray appointment, do wear loose, comfortable clothes, avoiding garments that have zips, poppers, bra closures, belts or buttons made of metal, and avoid putting on jewellery. 


What are the risks of a chest X-ray?

X-rays use a very small amount of radiation. The risks are minimal for adults. Lower radiation X-rays can be used in smaller children to minimise the risk in that population. 


Is it safe to get a chest X-ray while pregnant?

Always tell your healthcare provider if there is a possibility that you are pregnant. X-rays are not usually recommended if you are pregnant unless it is an emergency as radiation exposure may cause damage to a developing baby. In general, the amount of radiation used for simple chest X-rays is so small that it is considered safe during pregnancy, but your healthcare provider will help make the decision to do the X-ray based on the urgency of your symptoms.