Our Services

Chest X-Ray

Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

X-rays are made by using low levels of external radiation to produce images of the body, the organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body structures onto specially treated plates (similar to camera film) and a "negative" type picture is made. The more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film. For this reason, bones appear very white on an x-ray film, but less dense tissue, such as muscle, blood, skin, and fat, appears darker.

Chest x-rays may be used to assess heart status (either directly or indirectly) by looking at the heart itself, as well as the lungs. Changes in the normal structure of the heart, lungs, and/or lung vessels may indicate disease or other conditions. Conditions that may be assessed with a chest x-ray may include but are not limited to:

  • heart enlargement, a condition which can occur with congenital heart defects or cardiomyopathy
  • pericardial effusion, a build-up of excess fluid in-between the heart and the membrane that surrounds it, often due to inflammation
  • pleural effusion, a collection of blood or fluid around the lung
  • pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs, which can occur with congenital heart disease or congestive heart failure
  • pneumonia and other lung diseases

Chest x-rays also may be ordered as part of a physical examination or before hospitalization and/or surgery to:

  • assess symptoms of conditions related to the heart or lungs.
  • check the position of implanted pacemaker wires and other internal devices such as central venous catheters.
  • check status of lungs and chest cavity after surgery.

More definitive tests, such as a computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or cardiac catheterization may be performed to make a final diagnosis of cardiac conditions.

View our patient procedure sheet about chest x-ray at Children’s Hospital.

Last Update
August 21, 2012
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Last Update
August 21, 2012