Routine Daily Chest X-ray


  • controversial issue
  • viewed as an essential tool but is subject to overuse and misinterpretation
  • no evidence of harm from a more restrictive strategy


  • any ventilated patient with a sudden respiratory or cardiovascular deterioration
  • post line/tube insertion (NG, ETT, CVL, PAC, ICD, pacing wire)


  • erect preferred
  • consistent distance and energy level
  • in full inspiration (hold during exposure ideal but no always practical)


  • pregnancy
  • over reproductive organs in young patients
  • staff to stay > 3m away from x-rays


  • position of hardware
  • heart
  • mediastinum
  • soft tissue
  • bone
  • lung


  • hardware placement confirmation (lines, tubes, pipes, wires)
  • detection of expected/unexpected disease progression and complications
  • assessment of hypervolaemia, new infiltrates, pleural complications


  • radiation exposure (staff and patients)
  • potential for lines/tube displacement
  • cost and time
  • requires patient movement (risk of dislodging lines, etc)
  • false positives/negative findings
  • evidence does not suggest that daily routine CXR leads to changes in therapeutic decision making
  • length of stay and duration of MV not adversely affected by elimination of routine daily CXR
  • increasing use of thoracic ultrasound at the bedside supplants many uses of CXR
  • CT chest is required for many diagnoses


  • evidence to support or refute practice is sparse
  • no harm found from a restrictive strategy in a meta-analysis of 9,611 patients from 9 studies
  • hard to study due to: investigator bias, blinding problems and outcome assessment
  • generalisability is an issue (North America and Europe – single specialty ICU vs Australasian ICU – MDT based, closed units)
  • American College of Radiology recommends that mechanically ventilated patient should have a daily routine CXR

References and Links

CCC 700 6

Critical Care


Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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