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Facial X-Ray

A facial X-ray is a series of pictures of the bones in your face. One type of facial X-ray (called a paranasal sinus X-ray series) looks at the air-filled cavities (sinuses) around the nose and eyes.

X-rays are a form of radiation, like light or radio waves, that are focused into a beam, much like a flashlight beam. X-rays can pass through most objects, including the human body. X-rays make a picture by striking a detector that either exposes a film or sends the picture to a computer. Dense tissues in the body, such as bones, block (absorb) many of the X-rays and look white on an X-ray picture. Less dense tissues, such as muscles and organs, block fewer of the X-rays (more of the X-rays pass through) and look like shades of gray on an X-ray. X-rays that pass only through air, such as through the lungs, look black on the picture.

See a picture of the bones of the face camera.gif.

A facial X-ray helps find bone fractures, tumors, foreign objects, infections, and abnormal growths or changes in bone structure or size. An X-ray of the eye (orbital cavity) may be taken if the eye has been injured. A computed tomography (CT) scan may be needed to check any problems seen on X-ray.

Why It Is Done

A facial or sinus X-ray may be done to:

  • Find problems of the sinuses of the face and nose, such as sinusitis or abnormal growths (polyps or tumors).
  • Find fractures of the facial bones and nose.
  • Check the bones around the eye (orbital cavity).
  • Check the sinuses before surgery.
  • Check for metal objects around the eyes before a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.
  • Look for the cause of pain in the face.

How To Prepare

Before the X-ray test, tell your doctor if you are or might be pregnant. Pregnancy and the risk of radiation exposure to your unborn baby (fetus) must be considered. The risk of damage from the X-rays is usually very low compared with the potential benefits of the test. If a facial X-ray is absolutely necessary, a lead apron will be placed over your abdomen to shield your baby from exposure to the X-rays.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

You don't need to do anything else before you have this test.

How It Is Done

A facial X-ray is taken by a radiology technologist. The X-ray pictures are usually read by a doctor who specializes in interpreting X-rays (radiologist), but other doctors may also review the films.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 24, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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