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 instead.
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 test.
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 screen (digitally).