Chest radiograph

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Chest radiograph
Intervention
Pneumonia x-ray.jpg
Image A: A normal chest radiograph. Image B: Q fever pneumonia.
ICD-9-CM 87.3-87.4
MeSH D013902
MedlinePlus 003804

In medicine, a chest radiograph, colloquially called a chest X-ray (CXR), or chest film, is a projection radiograph of the chest used to diagnose conditions affecting the chest, its contents, and nearby structures. Chest radiographs are among the most common films taken, being diagnostic of many conditions.

Like all methods of radiography, chest radiography employs ionizing radiation in the form of X-rays to generate images of the chest. The mean radiation dose to an adult from a chest radiograph is around 0.02 mSv for a front view (PA or posterior-anterior) and 0.08 mSv for a side view (LL or latero-lateral).[1]

Problems identified[edit]

Conditions commonly identified by chest radiography

Chest radiographs are used to diagnose many conditions involving the chest wall, including its bones, and also structures contained within the thoracic cavity including the lungs, heart, and great vessels. Pneumonia and congestive heart failure are very commonly diagnosed by chest radiograph. Chest radiographs are used to screen for job-related lung disease in industries such as mining where workers are exposed to dust.[2]

For some conditions of the chest, radiography is good for screening but poor for diagnosis. When a condition is suspected based on chest radiography, additional imaging of the chest can be obtained to definitively diagnose the condition or to provide evidence in favor of the diagnosis suggested by initial chest radiography. Unless a fractured rib is suspected of being displaced, and therefore likely to cause damage to the lungs and other tissue structures, x-ray of the chest is not necessary as it will not alter patient management.

The main regions where a chest X-ray may identify problems may be summarized as ABCDEF by their first letters:[3]

  • Airways, including hilar adenopathy or enlargement
  • Breast shadows
  • Bones, e.g. rib fractures and lytic bone lesions
  • Cardiac silhoutte, detecting cardiac enlargement
  • Costophrenic angles, including pleural effusions
  • Diaphragm, e.g. evidence of free air, indicative of perforation of an abdominal viscus
  • Edges, e.g. apices for fibrosis, pneumothorax, pleural thickening or plaques
  • Extrathoracic tissues
  • Fields (lung parenchyma), being evidence of alveolar flooding
  • Failure, e.g. alveolar air space disease with prominent vascularity with or without pleural effusions

Views[edit]

Positioning for a PA chest x-ray

Different views (also known as projections) of the chest can be obtained by changing the relative orientation of the body and the direction of the x-ray beam. The most common views are posteroanterior, anteroposterior, and lateral. In an posteroanterior (PA) view, the x-ray source is positioned so that the x-ray beam enters through the posterior (back) aspect of the chest, and exits out of the anterior (front) aspect where the beam is detected. To obtain this view, the patient stands facing a flat surface behind which is an x-ray detector. A radiation source is positioned behind the patient at a standard distance (most often 6 feet, 1,8m), and the x-ray beam is fired toward the patient.

In anteroposterior (AP) views, the positions of the x-ray source and detector are reversed: the x-ray beam enters through the anterior aspect and exits through the posterior aspect of the chest. AP chest x-rays are harder to read than PA x-rays and are therefore generally reserved for situations where it is difficult for the patient to get an ordinary chest x-ray, such as when the patient is bedridden. In this situation, mobile X-ray equipment is used to obtain a lying down chest x-ray (known as a "supine film"). As a result, most supine films are also AP.

A chest radiograph with the angle parts of the ribs and some other landmarks labeled.

Lateral views of the chest are obtained in a similar fashion as the posteroanterior views, except in the lateral view, the patient stands with both arms raised and the left side of the chest pressed against a flat surface.

Typical views[edit]

In the United States, initial imaging of the chest generally consists of PA and lateral views. In other countries, the PA view suffices as an initial study; the lateral view is only added if indicated from reading of the PA view.

Additional views[edit]

Abnormalities[edit]

Nodule[edit]

A nodule is a discrete opacity in the lung which may be caused by:

There are a number of features that are helpful in suggesting the diagnosis:

  • rate of growth
    • Doubling time of less than one month: sarcoma/infection/infarction/vascular
    • Doubling time of six to 18 months: benign tumour/malignant granuloma
    • Doubling time of more than 24 months: benign nodule neoplasm
  • calcification
  • margin
    • smooth
    • lobulated
    • presence of a corona radiata
  • shape
  • site

If the nodules are multiple, the differential is then smaller:

Cavities[edit]

A cavity is a walled hollow structure within the lungs. Diagnosis is aided by noting:

  • wall thickness
  • wall outline
  • changes in the surrounding lung

The causes include:

Pleural abnormalities[edit]

Fluid in space between the lung and the chest wall is termed a pleural effusion. There needs to be at least 75ml of pleural fluid in order to blunt the costophrenic angle on the lateral chest radiograph, and 200ml on the posteroanterior chest radiograph. On a lateral decubitus, amounts as small as 5ml of fluid are possible. Pleural effusions typically have a meniscus visible on an erect chest radiograph, but loculated effusions (as occur with an empyema) may have a lenticular shape (the fluid making an obtuse angle with the chest wall).

Pleural thickening may cause blunting of the costophrenic angle, but is distinguished from pleural fluid by the fact that it occurs as a linear shadow ascending vertically and clinging to the ribs.

Diffuse shadowing[edit]

The differential for diffuse shadowing is very broad and can defeat even the most experienced radiologist. It is seldom possible to reach a diagnosis on the basis of the chest radiograph alone: high-resolution CT of the chest is usually required and sometimes a lung biopsy. The following features should be noted:

Pleural effusions may occur with cancer, sarcoid, connective tissue diseases and lymphangioleiomyomatosis. The presence of a pleural effusion argues against pneumocystis pneumonia.

Reticular (linear) pattern
(sometimes called "reticulonodular" because of the appearance of nodules at the intersection of the lines, even though there are no true nodules present)
Nodular pattern
Cystic
Ground glass
Consolidation

Signs[edit]

  • The silhouette sign is especially helpful in localizing lung lesions. (e.g., loss of right heart border in right middle lobe pneumonia),[4]
  • The air bronchogram sign, where branching radiolucent columns of air corresponding to bronchi is seen, usually indicates air-space (alveolar) disease, as from blood, pus, mucus, cells, protein surrounding the air bronchograms. This is seen in Respiratory distress syndrome[4]
  • The "bean" sign first described by Professor Keval Pandya is the appearance of a sharply circumscribed bean shaped nodule on chest X-ray which has a high sensitivity and specificity (92% and 88%) for the presence of miliary TB.

Limitations[edit]

While chest radiographs are a cheap and relatively safe method of investigating diseases of the chest, there are a number of serious chest conditions that may be associated with a normal chest radiograph and other means of assessment may be necessary to make the diagnosis. For example, a patient with an acute myocardial infarction may have a completely normal chest radiograph.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fred A. Mettler, Walter Huda, Terry T. Yoshizumi, Mahadevappa Mahesh: "Effective Doses in Radiology and Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine: A Catalog" - Radiology 2008;248:254–263
  2. ^ Using Digital Chest Images to Monitor the Health of Coal Miners and Other Workers. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
  3. ^ medicalmnemonics.com > Chest X-ray interpretation 2002
  4. ^ a b Chest X-Ray, OB-GYN 101: Introductory Obstetrics & Gynecology. © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 Medical Education Division, Brookside Associates, Ltd. Retrieved 9 February 2010.

External links[edit]