DefinitionAn abdominal x-ray is an imaging test to look at organs and structures in the belly area, including the spleen, stomach, and intestines.When the test is done to look at the bladder and kidney structures, it's called a KUB (kidneys, ureters, bladder) x-ray.See: X-ray
Alternative NamesAbdominal film; X-ray - abdomen; Flat plate; KUB x-ray
How the test is performedThe test is performed in a hospital radiology department or in the health care provider's office by an x-ray technologist.You lie on your back on the x-ray table. The x-ray machine is positioned over your abdominal area. You hold your breath as the picture is taken so that the picture will not be blurry. You may be asked to change position to the side or to stand up for additional pictures.
How to prepare for the testInform the health care provider if you are pregnant, have an IUD inserted, or have had a barium contrast media x-ray in the last 4 days.If you have taken any medications such as Pepto Bismol (which contains bismuth) within 4 days, mention it to the health care provider. This type of medication may interfere with the test.You wear a hospital gown during the x-ray procedure. You must remove all jewelry. You must sign an informed consent form.
How the test will feelThere is no discomfort. The films are taken with you lying on your back, side, and while standing.
Why the test is performedDiagnose a pain in the abdomen or unexplained nauseaIdentify suspected problems in the urinary system, such as a kidney stone or blockage in the intestineLocate an object that has been swallowed
Normal ValuesThe x-ray will show normal structures for a person your age.
What abnormal results meanAbnormal findings include:Abdominal massesBuild-up of fluid in the abdomenCertain types of gallstonesForeign object in the intestinesHole in the stomach or intestinesInjury to the abdominal tissueIntestinal blockageKidney stonesThe test may be performed for:Abdominal aortic aneurysmAcute appendicitisAcute cholecystitisAcute kidney failureAddison's diseaseAdenomyosisAnnular pancreasAscariasisAtheroembolic renal diseaseBiliary atresiaBlind loop syndromeCholangitisChronic renal failureCirrhosisEchinococcusEncopresisHirschsprung's diseaseIdiopathic aplastic anemiaInjury of the kidney and ureterIntussusception (children)Necrotizing enterocolitisNephrocalcinosisPeritonitis, spontaneousPrimary or idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstructionRenal artery stenosisRenal cell carcinomaSecondary aplastic anemiaToxic megacolonWilms' tumor
What the risks areThere is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated to provide the minimum amount of radiation exposure needed to produce the image. Most experts feel that the risk is low compared with the benefits.Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of the x-ray. Women should tell the health care provider if they are, or may be, pregnant.
Special considerationsThe test is not usually recommended for pregnant women. The ovaries and uterus cannot be shielded during the abdominal x-ray because of their location.Men should have a lead shield placed over the testes to protect against the radiation.
ReferencesMorrison I. The plain abdominal radiograph and associated anatomy and techniques. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 29.