Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How to interpret a Chest X-ray.


Hello everybody, so today's post will be a little long so kindly bear with me.

I hope that this post helps you and makes interpretation of an x-ray less daunting and more fun.

So let's get started.
Step 1:
Always place the x-ray in a such a way so that it seems you are facing the patient.

So naturally this is only possible with AP(Anteroposterior) and PA (Posteroanterior) views.

The technicians mark the X-ray indicating the side but chest x-rays are sort of independent of side markers due to the position of the left ventricle and the aortic knuckle.

Step 2:
To interpret a chest x-ray you need to think in layers as in from outside-in or from inside-out, with one type of structure at a time.
Do a targeted search rather than just staring at the radiograph, an abnormality is unlikely to strike unless you look for it in a planned manner.
Your eyes should scan each part of the film and one should always look twice in the regions where mistakes are more likely, like the Apices in a PA view and the region over the spine in a lateral view.

Step 3:
Scan the whole radiograph in a sequence:

Identify AP or PA view.
Check for side markers.
Radiographic exposure.
Check for integrity of bony cage.
Begin with lung Apices.
Upper middle and lower zones.
Check the Cardiophrenic angles.
Mediastinal structures.
Soft tissues.

Step 4:

Then Detect the lesion : Where is the lesion and what structures are affected by it. Starting with

Trachea and Bronchi:
Position,shift and deviation.

Mediastinal Lines:
Paratracheal stripes: visible or lost.
Aortopulmonary Window: Fullness or normal.
Paraspinal Lines: bulging or normal.

Hilum and Cardiac prominences, and see cardiogenic or mediastinal cause for the prominence.

Lungs :
Check for the Lung Volumes, Right or left lung densities,Diffuse lung abnormalities.
Whether the lesion is Pulmonary or Extrapulmonary. If pulmonary whether it is focal or diffuse.

Pleura and Fissures : Check for pleural effusion and pleural based masses.

Bones :
Focal injuries
Rib fractures, Notching.
Shoulder girdle and clavicles .

Step 5:
Directed search in an apparently normal chest x-ray.

Lungs :
See the Hidden lung areas like retrocardiac and retroclavicular areas.
Also check for Pulmonary Embolism.

Mediastinum :  Check for the Posterior mediastinal masses and hilar masses.

Step 6:
Describe the Lesion :
Location and Extent of the lesion.
Characteristics in the form of :
Shape
Homogeneity
Calcification
Necrosis
Associated features of trachea, lungs fissures etc.

Step 7:
In the end.
Put up a provisional diagnosis.
Differentiate from the closer/similar diagnoses.
Put up a final diagnosis.
A breif description on the Management.

Viola! We are through our way describing a chest x-ray!

Reading any radiograph has its learning curve and the more we see the more we learn.

Try and describe all the radiographs you see hence forth in the manner mentioned above or anyway you like it but follow a definite protocol and don't miss any important points.

I hope this post was helpful.

Let's Learn Together!
-Medha.

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