Chest X-ray

Interpretation

  • Start outside, work in – soft tissues, then bones, then lungs/heart, finally neck/infradiaphragmatic.
  • Safety check – position of lines/tunes, check apices for pneumothorax, any foreign bodies?

Adequacy

  • Rotation – look at symmetry of clavicles and anterior rib ends.
  • If clavicles high, then lordotic film. May obscure apices.
  • Penetration – should just be able to make out intravertebral spaces, without lung fields being too dark.
  • Inspiration – hila become artificially prominent if underinflated.

Thymus

Pesky thing! Can look like pneumonia. Latter more likely if air bronchograms, volume loss (displaced fissure/trachea/mediastinum), effusion. Classically:

  • indentations where ribs overlie.
  • Pointy outside edge (“sail sign”).
  • No mass effect
  • Lowish density – should still be able to see vascular markings of lung behind

Spinnaker sign is where pneumomediastinum around thymus creates long curving line.

Other normal things

Azygos lobe – normal variant where RUL has near vertical line extending up and out, giving impression of mediastinal mass.

Mach effect – a line parallel to heart border, looks like pneumocardium but actually optical illusion where your eye “detects” border where there isn’t one…

One diaphragm usually higher than other – both ok, as long as no more than 2cm (one rib space).

Other

Hilum – rings or tram lines suggest bronchitis. Round opacity adjacent to and larger than ring suggests vascular prominence due to left to right shunt.

Silhouette sign – where heart border and/or diaphragm obscured in lower zone due to consolidation in lower lobe (left or right).

Effusion – vertical line at costophrenic angle.

Round pneumonia – will have air bronchograms, compare mass.

Collapse vs consolidation – sharp lower border is the fissure so if deviated then collapse.

Pneumothorax – lucency without clear edge may suggest lung hyperinflation eg bronchial atresia.

If edge projects below diaphragm then likely to be skin fold!

Foreign body – get expiratory film, which will enhance air trapping.

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