Laguna Beach Urgent Care

Chest X-Rays Uncovered: What They Show, How Long They Take, and More

doctor using chest x-ray machine

A chest X-ray (CXR) is a vital medical diagnostic tool. It captures detailed images of the chest’s organs and structures, such as the heart, lungs, and bones. This non-invasive procedure is one of the most commonly performed imaging tests at our Laguna Beach urgent care facility, providing critical information to healthcare providers. Whether you are preparing for your first CXR or seeking to understand more about the procedure and what it detects, this blog offers comprehensive insights.

What Is a Chest X-Ray?

A chest X-ray creates images of the chest’s interior using a small amount of ionizing energy. The process involves positioning the patient between an X-ray machine and a specialized plate that captures the images. The X-ray machine emits a controlled beam of radiation that passes through the chest and creates images based on the density of the tissues it encounters.

What a Chest X-Ray Shows

The images from a CXR can reveal a wealth of information about the internal structures of the chest:


Detects infections (like pneumonia or tuberculosis), chronic conditions (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema), and lung cancer.


Chest X-ray Shows the size and shape of the heart, helping to identify conditions like heart failure, pericarditis, and congenital heart disease.


Highlights fractures or other abnormalities in the ribs, spine, and other bones.

Blood Vessels:

Identifies issues such as aneurysms or other abnormalities in the major blood vessels.


Assesses the position and shape of the diaphragm to detect conditions like hernias.

What to Expect During a Chest X-Ray

Understanding the urgent care X-ray procedure can alleviate anxiety and help patients feel more prepared.


Generally, little preparation is necessary for a chest X-ray. Patients may have to remove jewelry, glasses, and any clothing or accessories that could interfere with the images.

The Procedure


The patient must stand against the X-ray plate or lie on a table. In some cases, multiple positions are necessary to get comprehensive perspectives on the chest.


The radiologic technologist asks the patient to remain still and may request a deep breath to expand the lungs, which helps produce a clearer image. The technologist then steps behind a protective barrier to activate the X-ray machine.


A chest X-ray is a quick procedure. Usually, it requires ten to fifteen minutes to complete, with exposure to radiation lasting only a fraction of a second. The total time includes preparation and positioning.

man hand holding a lungs radiography

Understanding the Results

How Long Does X-Rays Take to Produce Results?

The time it takes to get results from a chest X-ray can vary. In urgent situations, preliminary results may be available within a few minutes. However, for routine examinations, it typically takes a few hours to a couple of days for a radiologist to review the images and send a report to the patient’s doctor.

What Does a Chest X-Ray Detect?

Chest X-rays can detect a wide range of conditions:


Changes in the lung tissue can identify pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other respiratory infections.

Lung Conditions:

Chronic diseases like emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and lung cancer often have distinctive signs visible on an X-ray.

Heart Problems:

An enlarged heart or abnormal contours can indicate heart disease or heart failure.

Bone Fractures:

Rib fractures or spinal abnormalities are easily spotted.

Pleural Effusion:

Fluid accumulation in the space around the lungs is visible on a chest X-ray.

Foreign Objects:

It is also possible to identify inhaled items or misplaced medical instruments.

Interpreting the Images

If available, the radiologist will analyze the X-ray images, looking for abnormalities or changes from previous photos. They will also consider elements like the dimensions, form, and position of the organs and structures within the chest.


Based on the results, additional testing or treatments may be advisable. These could include additional imaging tests like CT scans, MRIs, or specific blood tests to investigate further abnormalities.

Final Insights on Chest X-Rays

A chest X-ray (CXR) is a fundamental tool in medical diagnostics, providing crucial insights into the health of the lungs, heart, and other chest structures. By understanding what a CXR shows, the process involved, and how long it takes to get results, patients can feel more at ease. Moreover, with the ability to detect various conditions, from infections and chronic lung diseases to heart problems and bone fractures, these X-rays are invaluable in both emergency and routine healthcare settings. Therefore, always seek advice from your healthcare practitioner to understand your situation and the implications of your chest X-ray results.

Surfside Urgent Care offers comprehensive chest X-ray services in Laguna Beach to diagnose lung, heart, and bone conditions quickly. Our expert team ensures prompt, accurate results, helping you receive the care you need efficiently and effectively.

Recent Posts