What's The Difference Between A Chest X-Ray And A Chest CT Scan?

chest x-ray, chest ct scan, what's the difference between a chest x-ray and a chest ct scan

If you’re suffering from any type of chest disease, your pulmonologist will most likely recommend that you get either a chest X-ray or chest CT scan. Both of these procedures are instrumental in helping your doctor determine the source of your symptoms, as well as determine the best treatment plan for your specific needs. During our extensive years of practice, we’ve come to realize that most of our patients get lost between the two procedures and don’t understand the actual difference.

Although it’s not crucial for you to understand every minute detail of each procedure, it is important to understand the key differences between a chest X-ray and a chest CT scan before you elect to undergo one. Therefore, we’ve decided to devote one of our blogs to a clarification of what each procedure means and what the main differences between a chest X-ray and a chest CT scan are. 

What Is A Chest X-ray?

Chest X-ray is an imaging procedure that uses a very small amount of radiation, which quickly goes through your body in order to capture an internal image of your chest. A chest X-ray helps to indicate abnormal formations or a large variety of chest diseases such as pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, cancer, etc. In addition, a chest X-ray is often used for an emergency diagnosis due to its fast and easy usage.

What is a Chest CT Scan? 

Chest CT Scan is a more detailed type of chest X-ray that compounds the power of X-rays and computers to deliver a 3D view of your chest. A CT scan makes a number of detailed slices (pictures), which then are merged into one projection. This creates a clear view that shows the position, shape, and size of the organs in your chest.

What Are The Main Differences Between A Chest X-Ray And A Chest CT Scan?

  1. Chest CT scan allows for a more detailed view compared to a chest X-ray. For example, a chest X-ray may identify an abnormality, but a chest CT scan should be able to show the exact location and examine the nature of a formation.
  2. Chest X-ray provides a 2D image, while a chest CT scan is able to produce a 3D view of your organs.
  3. An X-ray is built to examine dense tissues, while a CT scan is better able to capture bones, soft tissues and blood vessels all at the same time. 
  4. X-ray equipment is much smaller and less complex than a CT scan since a CT scanner needs to rotate around the patient being scanned.
  5. Chest X-ray is a good low-cost, first-look exam. In order to move forward with your diagnosis and treatment, you might have to do a chest CT scan to have a better picture.

Making The Decision

 By now you should be able to better understand the key differences between a chest X-ray and a chest CT scan, but it’s ok to still have questions. Don’t rush to decide which approach suits you the best. Remember, all instances are different and require an individual approach. Consult your physician, who will be able to answer any questions you have and prescribe the test necessary for your particular condition. In case you need help, just make an appointment with one of our physicians or schedule your chest X-ray or chest CT scan as soon as possible.  

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