Chest X-Ray

What is an X-ray?

X-rays use 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 (much like camera film) and make a "negative" type picture.

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. Less dense tissue — such as muscle, blood, skin, and fat — appears darker.

Why Might My Child Need a Chest X-ray?

At the Heart Institute at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, doctors may use chest x-rays to assess your child's 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 suggest disease or other problems.

Some of the conditions that we can assess with a chest x-ray include:

  • Heart enlargement — that can occur with congenital heart defects or cardiomyopathy.
  • Fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion) — a build-up of excess fluid between the heart and the membrane that surrounds it, often due to inflammation.
  • Fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) — that can occur with congenital heart disease or congestive heart failure.
  • Pleural effusion — a build-up of blood or fluid around the lung.
  • Pneumonia and other lung diseases.

Doctors may also order chest x-rays as part of a physical exam or before your child's hospital stay and/or surgery to:

  • Assess symptoms of heart or lung conditions.
  • Check the position of implanted pacemaker wires or other internal devices, such as central venous catheters.
  • Check the status of the lungs and chest cavity after surgery.

To make a final diagnosis of cardiac conditions, your child's doctor may perform other tests such as:

Make an Appointment for a Chest X-ray

To make an appointment or learn more about chest x-rays, contact the Heart Institute at UPMC Children's Hospital at 412-692-5540.

Learn More About Chest X-rays

View our chest x-ray patient procedure sheet.