Chest Pain Cause Diagnostic Test Xray Scan

Diagnosing chest pain can be tricky. Chest pain can be caused by a number of conditions, ranging from a minor bout of heartburn to a major heart attack. Most people will agree that it’s better to be cautious when chest pain is involved. While it may indicate a minor, manageable condition, you may need treatment for something more serious.

It’s important to see a doctor if you experience chest pain for an accurate diagnosis. A number of tests can be done to diagnose chest pain, including various scans and X-rays.

Diagnosing Chest Pain: Scans

A CT scan, sometimes referred to as a CAT scan or a cardiac CT scan, is often used as a chest pain diagnostic tool. A CT scan for chest pain is essentially a heart scan. The test is non-invasive and painless. It uses special equipment to take a detailed scan of the inside of the body.

CT scans are more detailed than X-rays because they can show cross-sectional views of the inside of the body. CT scans can be used in a number of ways and for a number of purposes.

In some cases, CT scans are ordered after an abnormality is discovered on a chest X-ray or heart X-ray. CT scans can also:

  • detect or evaluate tumors in the chest
  • detect diseases such as:
    • bronchiectasis
    • emphysema
    • interstitial lung disease
    • pneumonia
    • tuberculosis.
  • determine whether tumors in the chest are responding to medication or treatment
  • diagnose symptoms of chest pain.

CT scans are very safe. While there is always a very slight chance of developing cancer from radiation exposure, getting an accurate diagnosis usually outweighs this small risk.

Getting a CT scan is fast and easy. The process is similar to getting an X-ray, except with a CT scan there are multiple moving X-rays and the patient will be moving through the scanning machine. A medical technician will position the patient on his back, side or stomach and will put pillows or cushions where necessary for the patient to hold the position. The only discomfort a patient will experience will be the discomfort that comes from lying very still for a few minutes. Claustrophobic people may need a mild sedative if the machine causes them stress.

Very young children and pregnant women should not get CT scans, however, as risks are higher for them. Very obese people may not be able to get CT scans, as the machine used may not accommodate them.

Diagnosing Chest Pain: X-Rays

A chest X-ray, sometimes called a heart X-ray or a cardiac X-ray, uses radiation to create an image of the chest, including the heart and the lungs.

Chest X-rays can be used to diagnose chest pain and diseases of the chest. They can also be used to determine the placement of devices in the chest, such as defibrillators, pacemakers or even chest tubes for surgery.

Chest X-rays are fast, easy and painless, just like CT scans. Patients don’t have to do anything special to prepare, though wearing comfortable, loose clothing is recommended.

During a chest X-ray, a medical technician will position you for the X-ray, most often in a lying-down or standing position. If you are asked to stand, you will need to stand very close to the X-ray machine. You may also need to hold your breath for a short period of time to get a clear image.

Pregnant women or those who could be pregnant should not get a cardiac X-ray, as the baby could suffer birth defects.


Mayo Clinic (2007). Chest Pain. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site:

MedicineNet (2007). Chest X-Ray. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from the MedicineNet Web site:

Radiology Info (2007). Computerized Tomography CT – Chest. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from the Radiology Info Web site: