When a patient complains of chest pain, shortness of breath and deep coughs, orders for chest x-rays are soon to follow. In fact, chest X-rays are among the most commonly performed medical imaging studies. After the chest x-ray comes the radiology reports, which use description terms or specific disease conditions.
The experts at Atlantis Worldwide put together this list of commonly terms used by radiologists in chest x-ray lingo. In this blog, we’ll look at Descriptive terminology first.
- Atelectasis: In Greek, this means imperfect extension. It refers to collapse of the lung, either by being compressed by the outside or if an airway to the lung is obstructed. Compressive is often caused by pleural effusion and pneumothorax. Obstruction can be caused by lung cancer, causing the entire lung to collapse. Partial atelectasis can create flat, thin areas of collapsed lunch that can be plate-like or band-like. It can also look more similar to either consolidation or scar.
- Consolidation: Consolidation or infiltrate can show up in the lungs as a density that resembles fluffy clouds. When alveoli fill up with fluids it manifests on a chest x-ray as consolidation. The five kinds of fluids that can cause this include blood, water, pus, cancer cells or protein.
- Density: This refers to the area on the x-ray that is brighter than expected. When chest x-rays are absorbed or blocked by something, it shows up as a brighter spot on the lungs. The thick pus and mucus from pneumonia can appear brighter. Opacity is used interchangeably with density as a rule and can represent a variety of lung pathologies.
- Fibrosis/scar: Lungs can form scar tissue when they’ve been damaged or injured, causing focal scars that are visible on chest x-rays. If there are large areas of scarring, it can impair lung function. Small focal scars can appear as linear densities on a chest x-ray. And interstitial lung pattern appears with diffuse fibrosis.
- Focal/diffuse/patchy: These terms are often found in a radiology report and are used to describe a process in the lungs.
- Interstitial lung pattern: This refers to subtle thin lines and small dots interspersed throughout the lungs. When it appears as lines only, it can be referred to as reticular, and if there are dots and lines together, it’s can be called reticulonodular. When interstitial tissues are abnormally thick, they can be seen as thin visible lines. These can indicate pulmonary fibrosis or edema, some types of pneumonia and allergic and autoimmune conditions.
- Lucency: This is the exact opposite of density. As x-rays pass through less dense regions like air-filled lungs, it appears as darker areas on the x-ray image. To a radiologist, lucency can be abnormal when there is too much of it and if it’s in an atypical location.
- Silhouette sign: This is one of the most important descriptive terminologies in the world of radiology. It describes when two structures of different densities, like the lungs and heart, lie adjacent to each other and a visible border forms at the interface. If there is not a silhouette sign, it indicates a problem—usually in the lung.
There is also language used by radiologists that refers to specific disease conditions. Look for a future blog to provide that information.
At Atlantis Worldwide, we’ve been providing refurbished and preowned medical imaging equipment to hospitals, clinics, medical facilities and practices for more than 25 years. For significant savings on refurbished or used CT, MRI or other diagnostic equipment contact us today.
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About the author: Vikki Harmonay