Plain chest roentgenogram remains the most commonly ordered screening test for pulmonary disorders. Its lower sensitivity demands greater accuracy in interpretation. This greater accuracy can be achieved by adhering to an optimal and organized approach to interpretation. It is important for clinicians not to misread an abnormal chest radiograph (CXR) as normal. Clinicians can only acquire the confidence in making this determination if they read hundreds of normal CXRs. An individual should follow the same systematic approach to reading CXRs each time. All clinicians must make a concerted effort to read plain CXRs themselves first without reading the radiologist report and then discuss the findings with their radiology colleagues. Looking at the lateral CXR may shed light on 15% of the lung that is hidden from view on the posteroanterior film. Comparing prior films with the recent films is mandatory, when available, to confirm and/or extend differential diagnosis. This article outlines one of the many systematic approaches to interpreting CXRs and highlights the lesions that are commonly missed. A brief description of the limitations of CXR is also included.From the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Drs Suhail Raoof and Irugulpati), New York Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, NY; the Department of Radiology (Dr Feigin), The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD; the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Dr Sung), Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY; the Department of Radiology (Dr Sabiha Raoof), Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, Jamaica, NY; and the Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Dr Rosenow), Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.
Correspondence to: Suhail Raoof, MD, FCCP, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, New York Methodist Hospital, 506 Sixth St, Brooklyn, NY 11215; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Financial/nonfinancial disclosures: The authors have reported to CHEST the following conflicts of interest: Dr Sung was the principal investigator for Broncus Technologies 2007 to 2009. Drs Suhail Raoof, Feigin, Sabiha Raoof, Irugulpati, and Rosenow have reported that no potential conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.