X-rays are electromagnetic waves, a type of radiation. In medical terms, an X-ray is an imaging test doctors use to see inside the body.
X-ray waves easily pass through the skin but do not pass through bone or organs. X-rays create images of these internal structures, and doctors use them to diagnose and monitor medical conditions. Doctors use chest X-rays to see the shape, size and location of your child’s heart, lungs, blood vessels and surrounding structures.
Chest X-Ray Uses
Chest X-rays are the most used imaging test for the chest. Doctors may use this test to diagnose or monitor:
- Symptoms like cough, chest pain or shortness of breath
- Heart problems like cardiomyopathy, congenital heart defects and heart failure
- Lung problems like pulmonary hypertension, pneumonia or a collapsed lung
- Broken ribs
What to Expect During a Chest X-Ray
Chest X-rays are painless and noninvasive. Children who are well enough go to a special room with an X-ray machine. When a child cannot easily come to the radiology department—children in intensive care units or operating rooms, for example—doctors may bring a portable X-ray machine to the bedside.
You may be able to stay in the room with your child during the X-ray. If you do, the X-ray technician will give you a lead apron to protect you from the small amount of radiation.
The test follows these simple steps:
- The X-ray technician positions your child next to the X-ray machine. Depending on your child’s condition and the reason for the X-ray, the technician may ask your child to stand, sit or lie down. The technician may put a lead apron on your child to protect the rest of the body from radiation.
- The technician returns to the monitoring booth to perform the test. You or your child can speak to the technician through a speaker.
- It is important to keep the chest still during the X-ray to get a clear image. The technician asks older children to hold their breath or uses gentle restraints to keep younger children still.
- The test takes a few seconds. Usually, the technician takes two images from different angles.
Chest X-Ray Risks
Chest X-rays are safe. The test uses a small amount of radiation—the X-ray waves—but the amount is not considered dangerous. Your child is exposed to far more radiation from the environment each year than from a single X-ray. X-rays are not recommended for pregnant individuals, so tell the doctor if your child may be pregnant.
Cardiology Care at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
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