How To Prepare
Before the X-ray test, tell your
doctor if you:
- Are or might be pregnant. An abdominal X-ray is not usually done
during pregnancy because of the risk of radiation exposure to your baby (fetus). Many times an abdominal ultrasound is done
- Have had an X-ray test using barium
contrast material (such as a
barium enema) or have taken a medicine (such as
Pepto-Bismol) that has bismuth in the last 4 days. Barium and bismuth can block
a clear picture.
You may be asked to empty your bladder before the test.
You may need to take off any jewelry that may be in the way of the X-ray
picture, such as if you have a pierced belly button.
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?).
How It Is Done
An abdominal X-ray is taken by a
radiology technologist. The X-ray pictures are read by a
radiologist. Some other doctors, such as emergency
room doctors, can also look at abdominal X-rays to check for common problems,
such as a blocked intestine.
You may need to take off all or most
of your clothes. You will be given a gown to use during the test.
You will lie on your back on a table. A lead apron may be placed over
your lower pelvic area to protect it from the X-ray. A woman's
ovaries cannot be protected during this test because
they lie too close to the belly organs that are X-rayed. A man's
testicles can sometimes be protected during the
After the X-ray machine is positioned over your belly, you
will be asked to hold your breath while the X-ray pictures are taken. You need
to lie very still so the pictures are clear.
Many times, two
pictures are taken: one while you are lying down (supine) and the other one
while you are standing (erect view). The erect view can help find a blockage of
the intestine or a hole (perforation) in the stomach or an intestine that is
leaking air. If you are not able to stand, the X-ray may be taken while you lie
on your side with your arm over your head.
An abdominal X-ray
takes about 5 to 10 minutes. You will be asked to wait about 5 minutes while
the X-rays are developed in case more pictures need to be taken. In some
clinics and hospitals, X-ray pictures can be made right away on a computer