Sinus X-ray
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Sinus X-ray

What is a sinus X-ray?

A sinus X-ray is an imaging test that uses electromagnetic energy to make images of your sinuses. The sinuses are air-filled pockets (cavities) near your nasal passage.

X-rays use a small amount of radiation to make images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures such as your bones. X-rays pass through body tissues onto special plates similar to camera film. The more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film. Computers and digital media are now more commonly used instead of film. X-rays are most often used to find bone or joint problems, or to check the heart and lungs. A sinus X-ray is one type of X-ray.

X-rays are most often used to find bone or joint problems, or to check the heart and lungs. A sinus X-ray is one type of X-ray.

A sinus X-ray is simple and quick, and doesn't involve any instruments that are put into your body (noninvasive). It can give your healthcare provider useful information. But a sinus X-ray can only tell your provider that a problem exists. It doesn't show a specific cause of the problem.

A CT scan or MRI may give better images of your sinuses. You may have one of these scans instead of a sinus X-ray in some cases.

Why might I need a sinus X-ray?

You may need a sinus X-ray if your healthcare provider thinks that you may have:

  • Injury to your sinuses

  • Inflammation (sinusitis)

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Fluid in the sinuses

  • Polyps

You may also need a sinus X-ray after sinus surgery.

Your provider may have other reasons to recommend a sinus X-ray. Talk with your healthcare provider about the reason for your sinus X-ray

What are the risks of a sinus X-ray?

You may want to ask your healthcare provider about the amount of radiation used during the test. Also ask about the risks as they apply to you.

Consider writing down all X-rays you get, including past scans and X-rays for other health reasons. Show this list to your provider. The risks of radiation exposure may be tied to the number of X-rays you have and the X-ray treatments you have over time.

Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects. If you need to have a sinus X-ray, special precautions will be made to minimize the radiation exposure to the fetus.

You may have other risks depending on your specific health condition. Be sure to talk with your provider about any concerns you have before the procedure.

How do I get ready for a sinus X-ray?

  • Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Ask him or her any questions you have about the procedure.

  • You don't need to stop eating or drinking before the test. You also will not need medicine to help you relax (sedation).

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant.

  • Tell your healthcare provider an artificial (prosthetic) eye. An artificial eye can create a confusing shadow on a sinus X-ray.

  • Follow any other instructions your provider gives you to get ready.

What happens during a sinus X-ray?

You may have a sinus X-ray as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider's practices.

Generally, a sinus X-ray follows this process:

  1. You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that may get in the way of the test.

  2. You will lie on an X-ray table. Your head will be carefully placed between the X-ray machine and the X-ray film or digital media. A foam vise will hold your head still. The vise does not hurt.

  3. The technologist will cover the rest of  your body with a lead apron (shield) so the rest of your body is not exposed to the X-rays.

  4. The technologist will ask you to hold still for a few moments while the X-ray is made.

  5. If the X-ray is needed to look at a possible injury, the technologist will take special care to prevent further injury. For example, you may wear a neck brace if your healthcare provider thinks you have a cervical spine fracture.

  6. Some sinus X-ray studies may require you to be in several different positions. It's very important to remain still during the X-ray. Any movement may affect the quality of the image. You may need to have another X-ray done in that case.

  7. The technologist will step behind a special window while the image is taken.

The sinus X-ray is not painful. But you may have some discomfort or pain from moving into different positions if you have had recent surgery or an injury. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and do the scan as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort or pain.

What happens after a sinus X-ray?

You don't need any special care after a sinus X-ray. Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation. 

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure

  • The reason you are having the test or procedure

  • What results to expect and what they mean

  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure

  • What the possible side effects or complications are

  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure

  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are

  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure

  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about

  • When and how you will get the results

  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems

  • How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure

Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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