Why is chest X-ray used?

Chest X-ray is one of the tests commonly used for COPD diagnosis. The test is fast and painless and produces images of the organs inside the chest (lungs, heart, blood vessels, airways, bones and spine). Chest X-rays can determine if another condition, such as heart failure, is causing the symptoms of COPD.

How to prepare

There is no need for any special preparation to take a chest X-ray.

Before the test, you’ll have to undress from the waist up, wear an exam gown, and remove all your jewelry so it doesn’t interfere with the X-ray images.

How it is done

You’ll be placed between the X-ray machine and the plate that creates the image. The technician operates the machine from behind a wall or in another room and asks you to move into different positions.

In the front position, your arms are up or to the side and the shoulders forward. In the side position, the shoulder is on the plate and the hands over the head. In both cases, you may have to hold your breath as this results in a clearer image of heart and lungs.

What shows up on a chest X-ray?

Chest X-ray images are black and white, depending on how bones and organs let x-rays pass through. Dense structures, such as bones, block x-rays and show as white, while lungs let X-rays pass through and show as dark.

A radiologist analyzes the images and sends a report to your doctor.

Side effects and warnings

Chest X-rays are painless and you won’t feel a thing when they pass through your body. You may feel cold when you place your body against the plate.

The test is safe as the amount of radiation is very low (lower than the amount of natural radiation in the environment) and lasts for a very short period of time.

Pregnant women or women that might be pregnant should tell the doctor to take protective procedures.

Other details

X-ray tests are used mainly to examine bones and joints.

In COPD, the test is used to determine if another condition such as emphysema, which involves damage of the air sacs and leads to a smaller gas exchange in the lungs, is causing the symptoms.

Other conditions such as pneumonia, heart failure, calcium deposits or fractures can also be diagnosed and monitored with this technique.

 

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