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
How It Feels
You will feel no discomfort from the
X-rays. The X-ray table may feel hard and the room may be cool. You may find
that the positions you need to hold are uncomfortable or painful, especially if
you have an injury.
There is always a slight chance of damage to
cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for
this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is usually very low
compared with the potential benefits of the test.
For example, the radiation exposure
from a chest X-ray is about equal to the natural radiation exposure received
during a round-trip airline flight from Boston to Los Angeles (Montreal to
Vancouver) or 10 days in the Rocky Mountains (Denver, Colorado).