What Is a Chest X-Ray?

A chest X-ray is a type of diagnostic radiology procedure used to examine the chest and the organs and structures located in the chest. Chest X-rays may be used to assess the lungs, as well as the heart (either directly or indirectly) by looking at the heart itself. Certain conditions of the heart may cause changes in the lungs and/or the vessels of the lungs. 

Chest X-rays are used to assess the lungs and heart including enlargement, masses, spots, or to help show whether cancer has spread into the lungs. A chest X-ray can see changes in the normal structure of the heart, lungs, and/or lung vessels like extra blood flow, which may indicate disease or other conditions.

Chest X-rays use invisible X-ray beams to produce images that provide important information regarding the size, shape, contour, and anatomic location of the heart, lungs, bronchi, great vessels (aorta, aortic arch, pulmonary arteries), mediastinum (an area in the middle of the chest separating the lungs), and the bones (cervical and dorsal spine, clavicles, shoulder girdle, and ribs).

Depending on the results of the chest X-ray, additional tests or procedures may be requested by your physician for further diagnostic information.

Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose problems of the chest and respiratory tract include: