Non specific Imaging Finding on X-ray

Non specific imaging finding on X-ray means that the abnormality identified can represent different diagnosis.  This is fairly common in X-ray imaging unfortunately.  The non specific imaging finding can be on different tests, but X-ray is probably the most common. X-rays are just shadows cast from the structures onto X-rays.  Kind of like the heart casts a white shadow onto the X-ray.

An example of a non specific imaging finding on X-ray is a white opacity on chest X-ray on the background of the dark lung.  This can be of various sizes, shapes, and locations.  A white opacity just means that something  is blocking the X-rays from getting though.  This can be an infection like pneumonia, cancer, fluid, pus, blood, or anything that blocks the path of X-rays.  Fortunately, radiologists are pretty good at telling abnormalities apart.  In difficult cases, more advanced imaging like CT is used.  Sometimes we follow up abnormalities such as pneumonia to make sure it clears up after antibiotics.

The clinical history is also very important when non specific imaging findings are identified on x ray.  For example, a white opacity on a chest X-ray in the lung can represent various diagnosis.  A patient who present to the emergency room with several days of cough most likely has a pneumonia.  A patient who smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day and has a chronic cough is more suspicious for cancer.

Another example of a non specific imaging finding on X-ray is on abdominal X-rays.  Dilated bowel loops can be seen for various reasons such as obstructed bowel, bowel which is paralyzed or not working well, or even normal findings in some cases.  Often additional imaging such as CT will be helpful along with the history.

A non specific imaging finding on X-ray of the bone maybe something that mimics a fracture or broken bone.  A broken bone can sometimes be subtle and not displaced or separated.  There are sometimes hairline lucencies seen in the bones for other reasons such as a blood vessel groove or shadow from something superimposed over the bone. In these cases, we can tell the clinical doctor to touch the area and see if it hurts.  Broken bones will hurt.

A non specific imaging finding on X-ray is therefore common.  The radiologist will alert the clinical doctor that something is wrong but the diagnosis is not certain.  In these cases, additional imaging like CT or MRI can help clear things up.  Additionally, correlating the imaging finding with the symptoms is helpful.


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