A chest x-ray is an invaluable diagnostic tool used frequently in the Intensive Care.
What is it?
A CXR is a picture of your chest cavity created by a small burst of radiation that passes through your body and is recorded on film or a digital recording device.
Why is it done?
A chest x-ray is an invaluable diagnostic tool for detecting possible problems and is used as a method of monitoring the progress of a patient. It is common for a patient in the Intensive care to have a chest x-ray on a daily basis. A chest x-ray will also be done after procedures such as insertion of a central line (CVC) or an endotracheal tube (ETT) or an intercostal catheter (ICC).
What can be found?
A chest x-ray can detect:
- Changes in the size and shape of the heart
- Abnormalities in the major blood vessels such as the Aorta;
- Fluid collection in the air sacs of the lungs caused by heart failure (pulmonary oedema)
- Lung problems including collapse of the lungs, pneumonia, tumors and pneumothoracies
What is done?
Intensive care patients will usually have their chest x-ray taken in their bed. The X-ray technician uses a portable machine and takes the x-ray with the ICU nurse supervising. The patient is sat as upright as possible and the x-ray plate is placed behind them. Conscious patients will be asked to hold their breath. When taking a CXR for the ventilated patient the technician will take the x-ray, timing with the ventilator.
What are the risks?
There are minimal risks for the patient as there is only a small amount of radiation used. The patient may be uncomfortable for a few minutes. If the patient is going to have a large number of x-rays or is pregnant small lead barriers will be used to protect the patient. You may hear the X-ray technician say “x-ray”. This is to alert the staff in ICU that an x ray is being taken.
How long before the results are back?
The intensive care doctors are able to view the chest x-ray within minutes of it being taken and will be able to identify most problems. Most ICU’s have a special viewing room where all patient x-rays are kept or a digital image can be seen. A radiologist, a specialist in interpreting x-rays, will analyze the image and provide a formal report. If there are significant problems the results will be discussed with you.
Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors
More Internet Information is avaiable at:
CXR Version 1.1 May 2009 (K Rolls CNC ICCMU) First posted October 2005
The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual patient variation. In addition it reflects Australian intensive care practice which may differ from other countries. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. ICCMU attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.