Chest X-Rays for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Your doctor will probably do a chest
X-ray if he or she suspects you have
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
A chest X-ray provides a picture of the heart and lungs. Although
COPD cannot be diagnosed with a chest X-ray alone, it can help your doctor evaluate shortness of breath, help support a diagnosis of COPD,
and detect advanced
A chest X-ray is done at the time of initial diagnosis
of COPD. Although routine follow-up chest X-rays are not usually done, many doctors advise smokers and recent ex-smokers to have this test every 1 to
Abnormal chest X-ray findings are usually not seen until COPD is
severe. In this case, the X-ray may show:
- Flattening of the
diaphragm, the large muscle that separates the lungs
and heart from the abdominal cavity.
- Increased size of the chest,
as measured from front to back.
- A long narrow heart.
Abnormal air collections within the lung (focal bullae).
A normal chest X-ray does not mean you do not have COPD. It may be
most useful for ruling out other conditions that might be causing your
breathing problems, such as
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
November 29, 2011