Chest X-ray: information for adult patients

Cardiac X-ray (photo by Jonathan Upton) 

A chest X-ray is the most commonly performed procedure in any X-ray department and can be performed in the department (as an outpatient) or on the wards with a mobile X-ray machine.

A chest X-ray gives a black-and-white picture of your lungs, ribs, heart, and diaphragm.

As with all X-rays, there is a small exposure to radiation. The amount of radiation from a chest X-ray is very small - about the amount of radiation you get from an airplane flight across the Atlantic (when you are closer to the radiation in our atmosphere). This is too small an amount to be likely to cause any harm.

For a chest X-ray, you will usually be asked to remove your shirt and bra, and to wear a gown. You will also be asked to remove any necklaces. You should tell the radiographer if you might be pregnant.

Your chest is pressed towards the film and the radiographer positions the X- ray tube behind you.

You will be asked to breathe in and hold your breath. This helps you concentrate and minimises movement on the film.