INTERPRETATION of thoracic radiographs is often challenging, even to the extent of differentiating normal from abnormal images. Overlooking significant lung pathology is clearly a problem but, conversely, over-reading of radiographs can lead to false positive diagnoses, with potentially serious consequences for the patient. Problems can arise from suboptimal image quality, variations in appearance due to technical or patient factors and non-specificity of radiographic changes. This article demystifies some of the principles surrounding interpretation of lung radiographs to help the reader gain greater confidence in interpreting thoracic films. An article in the next issue will consider alveolar, interstitial and mixed lung patterns, nodules, masses and pulmonary mineralisation, and discuss the causes of decreased pulmonary opacity.
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