What Chest Imaging Tests Are Used to Diagnose Cystic Fibrosis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2019

A variety of chest imaging tests can be conducted to help doctors understand lung and sinus function in people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

Chest and sinus x-rays

X-rays (radiographs) of the chest may not show early lung changes in people with CF, though x-rays may reveal small airway blockages. Advanced bronchiectasis will show up on a chest x-ray. More than 90% of people with CF show signs of chronic sinusitis on x-ray.1,2

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What is a chest CT scan?

Computed tomography (CT) scans offer a higher-resolution look at the lungs and sinuses and help doctors locate exactly where airways may be clogged. CT scans are more useful for people who have mild lung disease. Early bronchiectasis will be visible on a chest CT scan.

CT scans of the chest are usually recommended because it is a more sensitive test, showing doctors must more detail. However, this must be weighed against the greater exposure to radiation, particularly in small children.2

Sinus CT scan

A CT scan of the sinuses often shows those cavities completely filled with mucus. Nasal polyps and bone damage may also be visible on sinus CT scans.