Clinical recommendations discourage routine use of preoperative chest radiography (POCR). However, there remains much uncertainty about its utilization, especially variation across small areas. We aimed to assess the variation of POCR use across small regions, and to explore its influencing factors. Patients undergoing inpatient surgery during 2013 to 2015 were identified from insurance claims data. Possible influencing factors of POCR included socio-demographics, health insurance choices, and clinical characteristics. We performed multilevel modelling with region and hospital as random effects. We calculated 80% interval odds ratios (IOR-80) to describe the effect of hospital type, and median odds ratios (MOR) to assess the degree of higher level variation. Utilization rates of POCR varied from 2.5% to 44.4% across regions. Higher age, intrathoracic pathology, and multi-morbidity were positively associated with the use of POCR. Female gender, choice of high franchise and supplementary hospital insurance showed a negative association. MOR was 1.25 and 1.69 for region and hospital levels, respectively. IOR-80s for hospital type were wide and covered the value of one. We observed substantial variation of POCR utilization across small regions in Switzerland. Even after controlling for multiple factors, variation across small regions and hospitals remained. Underlying mechanisms need to be studied further.