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Chest X-Rays: About These Tests

What is it?

A chest X-ray is a picture of the chest that shows your heart, lungs, airway, blood vessels, and lymph nodes. Chest X-rays can also show the bones of your spine and chest.

Why is this test done?

A chest X-ray is done to find problems with the organs and structures inside the chest.

How do you prepare for the test?

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How is a chest X-ray done?

Two X-ray views of the chest are usually taken. One view is taken from the back. The other view is taken from the side.

  • You stand with your chest against an X-ray plate for the pictures.
  • You will need to hold very still while the X-ray is taken. You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds.

How long does the test take?

The test will take about 10 minutes.

What are the risks of a chest X-ray?

There is always a slight chance of damage to cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is extremely low. It is not a reason to avoid the test.

If you need an X-ray while you are pregnant, a lead apron will be put over your belly to protect the baby from exposure to radiation from the X-rays. The chance of harm is usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.

What happens after the test?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away. It depends on the reason for the test.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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