X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation, just like visible light. An x-ray machine sends individual x-ray particles through the body. The images are recorded on a computer or film.

  • Structures that are dense (such as bone) will block most of the x-ray particles, and will appear white.
  • Metal and contrast media (special dye used to highlight areas of the body) will also appear white.
  • Structures containing air will be black, and muscle, fat, and fluid will appear as shades of grey.

Chest xrayThe chest x-ray  has only a moderate sensitivity in the assessment of aortic dissections.  About 12-20% of patients presenting with an aortic dissection have a “normal” chest x-ray.  A “normal” chest x-ray does not rule out an aortic dissection.