How A Chest X-ray Can Help Diagnose Conditions Like COPD

A one time chest X-ray can help diagnose conditions like COPD, but even more importantly, it can be used to determine how a particular disease is progressing or if a prescribed treatment is working. In this case, a series of chest X-rays will be ordered so the doctor can quickly see any changes or improvements.

A chest X-ray procedure is an invaluable diagnostic tool, and something that everyone should understand a little better, especially if you have COPD.

What A Chest X-ray Can Tell You

The purpose of a chest X-ray is to see a flat image of your lungs, heart, airways, and the bones in your chest and spine. If a person experiences symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pains, a chest X-ray is usually the first diagnostic tool used.

By reading a chest x-ray, your doctor can determine if your symptoms are the result of a heart issue, or if you have a collapsed lung, pneumonia, a broken rib, emphysema, cancer, or other related health condition.

Once a particular diagnosis is made, there may be a series of chest X-rays to assess the progress of the disease in a less invasive way than other tests. Additional tests like a CT scan may also be performed to acquire a 3D picture rather than a flat image. These other tests will produce a more complex and detailed image compared to the chest X-ray.

COPD and Chest X-rays

Common complaints and symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) include coughing and wheezing, an excess of mucus, a tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing or catching one’s breath.

A chest X-ray will show significant signs of COPD with the following abnormalities:

  • Lungs become enlarged, which is termed as hyperinflation. This occurs when the lung becomes damaged and loses its elasticity.
  • Certain structural changes often occur with COPD. In this case, the lungs push up against the diaphragm, causing it to become flattened.
  • Another obvious change is the shape of the heart, which will become narrowed or appear elongated in shape due to the inflated lungs.
  • Bullae or pockets of air begin to appear within the lungs. Emphysema damages the lung tissue and can become progressively worse over time.

Final Diagnosis

In conjunction with a chest X-ray, other tests will most certainly be performed to arrive at a definitive diagnosis of COPD. From there, the doctor can determine the staging of the disease and recommend a treatment plan.

Contact Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates of Baltimore if you experience shortness of breath or have excess mucus with coughing, as these are both prominent warning signs of COPD.