Radiograph Of Doom

In medical dramas, all a doctor has to do is look at an x-ray, CT scan, or an MRI to make a Lethal Diagnosis. It doesn't matter who the doctor is, what their specialty is, or even if they're treating the patient. The moment they hold the sheet of film up to the lighttable their facial expression changes. This may involve a condition that is lethal and virtually untreatable like advanced stage cancer, or something that needs urgent attention like an aortic dissection. In more modern works, the doctor may be standing in the radiology control room as the images are shot, with the same horrified expression as the images result on the technologist's workstation.

A subtrope of Lethal Diagnosis.


  • One Green Arrow story Zig-Zagged this by having him get an x-ray after his ribs are bruised, and the doctor discovers that he's about to die. Halfway through the story, the doctor calls up to say there's been a mix-up, the Radiograph Of Doom actually belongs to...Oliver Queen! At the very end it's revealed that Ollie got speckles of radium on his chest from a broken watch before his x-ray and this botched the film.

  • In The Fugitive the titular fugitive Doctor Kimble looks at the X-ray of a little boy and realizes immediately that the child is going to die if he doesn't get into surgery immediately. He fakes the necessary documentation, the kid is operated on and survives.

Live-Action TV
  • On Scrubs, a doctor takes a look at a chest X-Ray and without knowing anything about the patient sees how advanced their lung cancer is.
    The owner of those lungs is gonna die, like, yesterday.
  • On Monk episode "Mr. Monk And The Naked Man", a doctor looking at an X-Ray that had been hidden realizes that the guy has an aortic aneurysm that could burst at any moment.
  • In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), a doctor looks at an MRI of a brain and an MRI of a knee and tells Dean that Sam has internal burns to major organs and is going to die.