What is a sinus X-ray?

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Paul M. Ehrlich, MD
Allergy & Immunology
Also known as radiographs or roentgenograms, sinus x-ray tests may be done in the office or at a hospital or radiology facility. These tests involve a small amount of radiation focused on a film, and take only a few minutes to perform. They will show tissue irregularities such as sinus disease.
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A sinus x-ray is a picture of the air-filled cavities in the front of the skull. X-rays are commonly used to assess problems quickly, as well as to rule out other serious problems. While most doctors prefer a CT scan of the sinuses today, x-rays can help detect acute or chronic sinusitis, cancer and some infections. An x-ray exposes your body to a small amount of radiation to produce an image of the sinus cavities. With a sinus x-ray, the technician may have you sit up to get a good picture of the fluid-filled sinuses.  You will be completely still while the technician leaves the room and turns on the machine to take the image. When the radiographic equipment is activated, a beam of x-ray goes through your body to expose the film. The technician may have you move into various positions to get different views, and then will take the film to a lab to be developed. The film is read by a radiologist, a doctor who is trained to read radiographic film. After the radiologist analyzes the x-rays, he or she will send your doctor a written evaluation, and your doctor will give you the results.

For some types of acute pain, x-rays can give a fast evaluation of the problem so your doctor can prescribe treatment immediately. Because x-ray is an inexpensive method of assessing internal problems, it is easily accessible at most doctor’s offices and outpatient centers. Of course, it’s very important to limit the number of x-rays you have taken to avoid over exposure to radiation, which may lead to cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.