Background: The chest x-ray is one of the most common plain film radiographic examinations performed. Inclusion of the lateral chest radiograph varies internationally and nationally across radiology departments and states in Australia. Search strategy: A search strategy of the databases Cochrane Library, Ovid Medline/Medline, PubMed, Scopus and Science Direct was conducted. The results were restricted to those published between 1985 and 2013 and those published in English. The following search terms were used: `lateral chest?, `radiograph?, `digital radiography?, `chest x-ray?, `plain film radiography?, `ionising radiation?. The results were restricted to publications with these terms in the title, abstract and/or keywords. Main findings: There are few national or international guidelines pertaining to the inclusion of the lateral chest x-ray as routine. Primary concerns are the increased radiation dose associated with the additional chest view and reduction of medical imaging services cost. Modern digital imaging systems result in a lower radiation dose. The diagnostic yield of the lateral chest x-ray is highly dependent on the clinical indications of the patient. Further research into the routine inclusion of the lateral chest x-ray is recommended. Conclusion: Review of the literature suggests that the lateral chest radiograph should not be performed routinely unless clinically indicated.