Routine chest radiographs in exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Diagnostic value

Arch Intern Med. 1989 Nov;149(11):2493-6.


Routine admission chest radiographs were abnormal in 35 (14%) of 242 patients hospitalized with an exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and resulted in management changes that were appropriate and clinically significant in only 11 cases (4.5%). Based on our analysis of clinical variables predictive of significant radiographic abnormalities and our assessment of clinically important findings, we propose the following indications for admission chest radiographs in patients with an acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: white blood cell count above 15 x 10(9)/L and polymorphonuclear leukocyte count above 8 x 10(9)/L, history of congestive heart failure, history of coronary artery disease, chest pain, or edema. In view of the low yield of clinically significant abnormalities, we believe that routine chest radiographs need not be performed in this patient population. The use of selective criteria could eliminate unnecessary studies while assuring recognition of important new radiographic abnormalities.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / diagnostic imaging
  • Bronchitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography, Thoracic*
  • Retrospective Studies