Chest x-ray (basic) - an approach

This is a basic article for medical students and other non-radiologists

Chest x-ray review is a key competency for medical students, junior doctors and other allied health professionals. Chest radiographs are frequently performed and a fantastic tool for making diagnoses of acute and chronic conditions, as well as acting as a tool for follow up.

There are many systematic ways to review a chest x-ray. The important thing is to get into the habit of having a systematic approach. If you do the same thing every time you look at a chest x-ray, you will be much less likely to make a mistake.

Start off the same way each time you look at a film. Every time you look at an x-ray or other scan, think about:

  • who, what, why, where and when
  • quality

Read more: initial review

After the initial look at the films, it is really important to review the lines and tubes that are present. It gives you an idea of how sick the patient is, and in addition, allows you to check that they are in the correct position. 

Read more: lines and tubes

Using the A, B, C, D, E approach you can use the headings employed in ALS (advanced life support) to prompt you to look at things in the correct order:


Medical student imaging approach
Share Article

Article Information

rID: 29085
System: Chest
Section: Approach
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

  • Drag
    A (airway)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    B (breathing)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Drag
    C (circulation)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.
    Loadinganimation

    Alert accept

    Error Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

    Alert accept Thank you for updating your details.