Treatments and tests

Chest X-ray

What is a chest X-ray?

Chest X-rays use a special type of radiation to take pictures of the chest, including the heart, lungs, airway, and blood vessels. You will be placed between the X-ray tube and a receiving plate which makes the picture.

Chest X-rays are the most common X-rays performed and are usually used to look at:

  • reasons for chest pain, long term or bad cough and shortness of breath
  • fractures of ribs
  • heart problems
  • lung problems.

Benefits of chest X-rays

  • X-rays are painless, fast and easy.
  • No radiation is left in your body after the X-ray is finished.

Risks of chest X-rays

Your doctor knows the risks of having a chest X-ray. Your doctor will consider the risks before recommending you to have an X-ray.

X-rays are not usually recommended for pregnant women but may occasionally be necessary.

There is a very small chance you could develop cancer in the long term from the radiation from an X-ray.


  • Bring your referral letter or request form and all X-rays taken within the last 2 years with you.
  • Leave the X-rays with the radiology staff as the doctor may need to look at them. The radiology staff will tell you when these are ready to be picked up.
  • Leave all jewellery and valuables at home.

Just before the X-ray

  • You may be given a gown to wear.
  • You may be asked to remove any metal objects.

Tell your doctor

  • If you are or may be pregnant.
  • If you have difficulty taking a deep breath and holding your breath.

What happens during a chest X-ray

X-ray staff will ask you to stand with your chest against the X-ray plate. If you cannot stand, you will be asked to lie on a table. Two pictures may be taken, one from the back and one from the side.

Once you are ready, the X-ray staff will go behind a screen or into the next room to start the X-ray machine. They will ask you to be still, take a deep breath and hold your breath during the X-rays.

When your X-ray is finished you will be asked to wait while the X-ray staff check the pictures, as you may need another X-ray.

The X-ray usually takes about 15 minutes including time taken to get ready.


You have the right to refuse an examination and may do so if you wish. A written consent is generally not required for chest X-rays.       

When will I get the results?

The amount of time it takes for you to get your results will differ depending on where you get your scans done. The radiology doctor will look at the pictures and write a report. The pictures may be on films or on a CD.

Ask whether you should wait to take the pictures and report with you, or whether they will be sent to your doctor.

Your doctor will need to discuss the report with you. You will need to make an appointment to do this.

After the chest X-ray

You will be able to go soon after the chest X-ray is finished and can continue with normal activities.

Costs of chest X-rays

For an Australian patient in a public hospital in Western Australia:

  • public patient – no cost to you unless advised otherwise
  • private patient – costs can be claimed through Medicare and your health insurance provider

For a patient in a private hospital or private imaging site in Western Australia – ask your doctor or the staff where you are having your test done.

Where to get help

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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