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Sinuses X-ray

Definition

A sinus x-ray is a picture of the air-filled cavities in the front of the skull.

Alternative Names

Paranasal sinus radiography; x-ray - sinuses

How the test is performed

X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation -- like light, but of higher energy. They can pass through the body to form an image on film. Structures that are dense (such as bone) look white, air looks black, and other structures are shades of gray.

A sinus x-ray is taken in a hospital radiology department or your health care provider's office. You will be asked to sit in a chair so that any fluids in the sinus may be easily seen on the pictures. The technician may place your head in different positions as the pictures are taken.

How to prepare for the test

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant. Remove all jewelry.

How the test will feel

Generally, there is little or no discomfort associated with x-rays.

Why the test is performed

This test is performed when symptoms of sinusitis or other sinus disorders are present.

What abnormal results mean

The x-ray may detect tumors, obstructions, infections, and bleeding.

Additional conditions under which the test may be performed include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Meningitis
  • Orbital cellulitis

What the risks are

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk of most x-rays is smaller than other risks we take every day. Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

Special considerations

A CT scan of the sinuses is often preferred over a sinus x-ray, because it shows more detail.

Review Date: 9/9/2009

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Information developed by A.D.A.M., Inc. regarding tests and test results may not directly correspond with information provided by UCSF Medical Center. Please discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.