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What will a chest x-ray tell my doctor about my heart and blood vessels?

A chest x-ray provides clues to the health of your heart and major blood vessels. It also helps determine whether certain symptoms are caused by a problem in the heart, lungs or chest itself.

The size of the heart is one of the most important clues. An enlarged heart may mean that some of the heart’s muscles are overworking. This could be a sign of heart failure, caused by damage to areas of heart muscle that are no longer strong enough to pump blood to the body. Changes in the size and shape of your heart may also suggest a build-up of fluid in the tissue sac that surrounds the heart.

Images of the lungs can help determine the cause of shortness of breath. In someone with heart failure, the weakened heart cannot pump as much blood as it should, and the lungs become congested with fluid back-up, making it hard to breathe. On the other hand, a chest x-ray can also reveal whether shortness of breath is caused by pneumonia, chronic lung disease or some other problem unrelated to the heart.

Changes in the size, shape and position of the major blood vessels can also be seen on a chest x-ray. For example, enlargement or bulging of the aorta, the main artery that transports blood away from the heart, could indicate an aortic aneurysm.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.