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Sinus x-ray

A sinus x-ray is an imaging test to look at the sinuses. These are the air-filled spaces in the front of the skull.

Alternative Names

Paranasal sinus radiography; X-ray - sinuses

How the test is performed

A sinus x-ray is taken in a hospital radiology department. Or the x-ray may be taken in the health care provider's office. You are asked to sit in a chair so that any fluid in the sinuses can be seen in the x-ray images. The technologist may place your head in different positions as the images are taken.

How to prepare for the test

Tell your doctor if you are or think you are pregnant. You will be asked to remove all jewelry.

How the test will feel

There is little or no discomfort with a sinus x-ray.

Why the test is performed

The sinuses are located behind the forehead, nasal bones, cheeks, and eyes. When the sinus openings become blocked or too much mucus builds up, bacteria and other germs can grow. This can lead to an infection and inflammation of the sinuses called sinusitis .

A sinus x-ray is ordered when you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms of sinusitis
  • Other sinus disorders, such as a deviated septum (crooked or bent septum, the structure that separates the nostrils)
  • Symptoms of another infection of that area of the head

A sinus x-ray is not ordered as often before. This is because CT scan of the sinuses shows more detail.

What abnormal results mean

The x-ray may detect an infection, blockages, bleeding or tumors.

What the risks are

There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated so that the lowest amount of radiation is used to produce the image.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.

References

Anslow P. Ear, nose and throat radiology. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Grainger RG, et al., eds. Grainger & Allison’s Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 62.

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: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 11.

Updated: 9/20/2013

Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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