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Chest X-Ray (cont.)

Abnormal Chest X-ray Test

Many abnormalities can be detected on a chest X-ray test. Common abnormalities seen on a chest X-ray test include:

  • pneumonia (abnormally white or hazy shadow on the lung fields that would normally look dark);
  • abscess in the lung (lung abscess);
  • fluid collection between the lung and the chest wall appearing whiter than the lungs and making the sharp lung borders on the film more hazy (pleural effusion);
  • pulmonary edema (fluid build-up in the lung or its blood vessels) seen as diffuse haziness on the lung fields (for example, from congestive heart failure);
  • enlarged heart size (or cardiomegaly);
  • broken ribs or arm bones (irregularity in the structure and shape of any of the ribs or the humerus bone of the arm);
  • broken vertebrae or vertebral fractures;
  • dislocated shoulders;
  • lung cancer or other lung masses (irregular and abnormal shadow on the lung fields);
  • cavities in the lungs or cavitary lung lesions (tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, etc.);
  • abnormal presence of air between the chest wall and the lung creating a distinct black shadow (darker than the lung fields) between the border of the lung tissue and the inside border of the chest wall (pneumothorax);
  • hiatal hernia (protrusion of the upper portion of the stomach into the chest cavity); and
  • aortic aneurysm (dilated aorta - a widening of the midline of the chest overlying the vertebral column).

These are some of the common abnormal findings that can be seen on chest X-ray test. There are many other less common abnormalities that can be detected on chest X-ray tests.

Obtaining Chest X-ray Test Results

After the chest X-ray test is read by the doctor, a report is typically generated and placed in the patient's chart. If the X-ray is performed in a radiology facility, the report from a radiologist is usually sent to the doctor who had ordered the test. The written report can also be provided to the patient after proper forms to release medical information are signed.

Interpreting a Chest X-ray Test

Chest X-ray tests are most frequently interpreted by a radiologist (doctor specialized in radiology). Other doctors who often review and interpret the results of chest X-ray tests include:

  • emergency room physicians,
  • internal medicine doctors,
  • pediatricians,
  • family practice doctors,
  • pulmonologists (lung doctors),
  • cardiologists (heart doctors),
  • anesthesiologists,
  • chest surgeons, and
  • oncologists (cancer doctors).

Generally, doctors use the information from a chest X-ray together with medical history, physical examination, and other clinical data to help to make a clinical decision.


NIH. "Chest X Ray."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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