Understanding Abnormal Chest X-ray

An abnormal chest X-ray can mean various things. It can indicate an underlying health problem or a litany of problems. In other cases, it’s not a cause for concern. For instance, an abnormal chest X-ray can indicate fluid in the lungs, air pockets, an enlarged heart, pneumonia, or other conditions.

Pulmonary physicians will be able to read the scans and determine what the results indicate. Chest X-rays are painless and fast and it uses electromagnetic waves to produce images of the structures in and around the chest.

A chest X-ray is an imaging test that uses low doses of radiation in short blasts. It is done to create images of the inside of an individual’s chest. A chest X-ray can help doctors examine the lungs, heart, bones, and the blood vessels.

If the images show some abnormalities, it means there is something unusual that’s indicative of a problem. Some problems are obvious like a fractured or broken rib. At times, it can simply be a shadow that might need to be investigated further. Follow up tests may also be required to determine the cause.

An abnormal chest X-ray can be caused by several conditions including:

Lungs

  • Abscesses
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lung cancer

Bones

  • Broken or fractured vertebrae
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Broken ribs

Heart

  • Heart failure
  • Enlarged heart

Others

  • Pneumothorax
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pleural effusion
  • Aortic aneurysm

Pulmonary nodules are small spots on the lungs that show up on CT scans or X-rays. Pulmonary nodules are typically less than 3 cm in diameter. Some patients have pulmonary nodules in their lungs for years and not know it. They also won’t cause any symptoms.

When needed, a biopsy of the nodule may be taken to check if it is cancerous. It is however reassuring to know that less than five percent of pulmonary nodules lead to cancer. Other possible uses of pulmonary nodules can include Tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, fungal infection, bacterial infection, scar from previous infection or injury.

If a doctor is concerned about an abnormal chest X-ray but does not have enough information to make a diagnosis, further tests like a CT scan may be ordered. Once all the results of the tests are analyzed, a treatment course can be created to treat the condition.

Contact Us