Overview of X-Ray
X - ray is a diagnostic radiology procedure; it creates images of internal organs, tissues, structures and bones with the help of invisible electromagnetic energy beams. X rays comprise of use of external radiation which passes through body tissues and an image is created onto specially treated plates.
More specific X-rays or other tests such as CT scan, ultrasound or MRI can be recommended by the doctor depending on the requirements in each case.
Why Are Chest X-Rays Required?
Chest X-rays are typically required to detect the defects and injuries in the heart, lungs and major blood vessels like the aorta, aortic arch, pulmonary veins and arteries, mediastinum (an area in the middle of the chest separating the lungs), and the bones (cervical and thoracic spine, clavicles, shoulder girdle, and ribs). These defects can be visualized with an X-ray.
Some of the defects and diseases that can be detected through Chest X-ray are:
- Heart enlargement
- Pericardial effusion – which is a buildup of excess fluid in between the heart and the membrane
- Calcium deposition in the lung, heart , valves, coronary arteries
- Lung abnormalities resulting from a congestive heart failure
- Herniation or displacement of the diaphragm
- Fractured rib cage
- Pleuritis which is the inflammation of the pleural membrane surrounding the lungs
- Tumours in the lung, lymphoid tissue and thoracic bones
- Detect problems like rib fractures or lung damages.
A chest x-ray also acts as a tool for check-up before and after surgery or even as a part of physical examination required for some recruitment processes. Chest x-ray is used by doctors to detect the symptoms of diseases that affect the heart and lungs and to make sure that the surgically inserted device like pacemakers or catheter are placed in proper position. This test is also done to find causes of shortness of breath, chest pains, fevers and chronic cough.
Procedure Before An X-Ray
Nothing has to be done before going for a chest X-ray. It is a non-invasive and non-surgical procedure. The patient will be asked to remove jewellery as any metal piece interferes during an X-ray. The patient would be required to wear a hospital gown. In case of pregnant patient, the physician will take extra care as an X-ray may pose risk to the fetus. Let your doctor know if you are pregnant.
Procedure Followed During an X-Ray
The X-ray process is simple, convenient and involves following easy steps:
According to the required image view, the patient is positioned. For front X-ray, patient is positioned upright and the X-ray plate is placed before him/her.
The patient should sit or stand still and must breathe deeply until the X-ray exposure is made, any type of movement should be avoided by the patient as a movement results in blurring the image.
In case of patients who are unable to hold their breath, the radiologist technician will observe the breathing pattern and take the picture at the appropriate time.
Portable chest x-ray machine is used for taking X-rays of patients who cannot be moved from the bed.
The radiologist technician stands behind a protective shield while the images are being taken to avoid any undue exposure to radiation.
The patients can go back to a normal routine after an X-ray and no extra care is required.
Risks Involved in chest x-ray
The X-ray procedure is absolutely safe; however, the patients should be aware of the amount of radiation they will be exposed to during the procedure. Also, they should inform the doctor of their previous scans and radiation exposure. In case of pregnant women, an X-ray can be harmful for the fetus and lead to birth defects, so doctors do not recommend an X-ray as far as possible. Extra care should be taken by the physician with pregnant patients.
Also patients with some medical conditions cannot be compatible for this procedure. The doctor should be notified of any medical history well in advance. A lead apron may be used to protect some of the body parts of the patient from the radiation.
Chest X-Ray Results
Radiologists and physicians interpret and read the X-rays to evaluate results. Regular X-rays of patients with a medical history are used to detect the abnormalities in the organ. These findings are then given to the referring doctor in the form of a report with those scans attached. The doctor informs the patient accordingly and prescribes medications or other tests if needed.
Written by: Healthplus24 team
Date last updated: July 19, 2013