Chest x rays are done at doctors' offices, clinics, hospitals, and other health care facilities. The location depends on the situation. An x-ray technician oversees the test. This person is specially trained to do x-ray tests.
The entire test usually takes about 15 minutes.
Depending on your doctor's request, you'll stand, sit, or lie for the chest x ray. The technician will help position you correctly. He or she may cover you with a heavy lead apron to protect certain parts of your body from the radiation.
The x-ray equipment usually consists of two parts. One part, a box-like machine, holds the x-ray film or a special plate that records the picture digitally. You'll sit or stand next to this machine. The second part is the x-ray tube, which is located about 6 feet away.
Before the pictures are taken, the technician will walk behind a wall or into the next room to turn on the x-ray machine. This helps reduce his or her exposure to the radiation.
Usually, two views of the chest are taken. The first is a view from the back. The second is a view from the side.
For a view from the back, you'll sit or stand so that your chest rests against the image plate. The x-ray tube will be behind you. For the side view, you'll turn to your side and raise your arms above your head.
If you need to lie down for the test, you'll lie on a table that contains the x-ray film or plate. The x-ray tube will be over the table.
You'll need to hold very still while the pictures are taken. The technician may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds. These steps help prevent a blurry picture.
Although the test is painless, you may feel some discomfort from the coolness of the exam room and the x-ray plate. If you have arthritis or injuries to the chest wall, shoulders, or arms, you may feel discomfort holding a position during the test. The technician may be able to help you find a more comfortable position.
When the test is done, you'll need to wait while the technician checks the quality of the x-ray pictures. He or she needs to make sure that the pictures are good enough for the doctor to use.
The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.