What Does It Mean If My Chest Scan Is Abnormal?

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An abnormal chest scan could mean many things. It could be one problem, or a litany of problems, or it could be nothing serious. Dr. Rolando Sanchez MD says an abnormal chest x-ray could show an “enlarged heart, fluid in the lungs, air pockets, pneumonia, among many other things.” Pulmonary physicians can help read these scans and determine the particularities of any abnormality.

What Is A Chest Scan?

Two common forms of chest scans are chest x-rays and chest CTs. The x-ray is a more basic procedure and the CT is more detailed. It uses x-ray technology in conjunction with computer imaging software to create a more detailed picture of the lungs.

Chest x-rays are fast and painless tests that use electromagnetic waves to produce pictures of the structures in and around your chest. These tests are used to diagnose and monitor such conditions as pneumonia, heart failure, lung cancer, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, and scarring of the lung tissue.

Chest CT scans or Computed Tomography scans are also painless tests. They provide more detailed images. They often create cross-sectional images of the lungs often called “slices”, and they also use computer technology to create 3-D models of the lungs. These tests are usually follow-up tests to abnormal chest x-rays. They are often used to diagnose certain lung conditions such as check to see if you have certain lung problems such as a tumor, excess fluid around the lungs that is known as pleural effusion, pulmonary embolism, emphysema, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.

Abnormal Scans

If you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chronic mucus production, etc. then your physician may order a chest x-ray. If the x-ray is abnormal or the physician sees something in the x-ray, then they might order a CT scan or even a PET scan to further diagnose what showed up on the x-ray.

Conditions such as heart failure, pneumonia, lung cancer, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, pleural effusion, embolisms, emphysema, and lung scarring would all show up on chest scans in various ways.

Pulmonary Nodules

Pulmonary nodules are small spots on the lungs that may show up on x-rays or CT scans. They are often causes of serious concern for patients even thought they do not have to be. A pulmonary nodule is usually less than 3cm in diameter, and can sometimes be in the lungs for years without the patient knowing. They do not always cause symptoms.

Nodules show up as white spots on imaging scans. Your physician will probably want to take a biopsy of the nodule to see if it is malignant or cancerous. Less than five percent of pulmonary nodules cause cancer, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Other causes of these nodules include infection, neoplasms, or sarcoidosis.

What Next?

The experts at Pulmonary Associates of Brandon are equipped to diagnose and treat a variety of pulmonary diseases and conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, acute and chronic respiratory failure, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension, lung infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and sleep disorders. They can help you determine what is causing your abnormal chest scan, and can help decide the best path to take for it. The team of highly specialized physicians will know the best way to analyze a chest scan and the most effective way to proceed from any abnormalities.