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 with x-rays.

Why the test is performed

This test is performed when you have symptoms of sinusitis or other sinus disorders.

What abnormal results mean

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

The test may also be performed for conditions such as:

  • 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.

References

Aygun N, Zinreich SJ. Overview of diagnostic imaging of the head and neck. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 11.

Review Date: 8/31/2011

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright ©2003 A.D.A.M., Inc., as modified by University of California San Francisco. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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.