Abdominal X-rays

(Flat Plate of the Abdomen, Abdominal Radiography, KUB [Kidneys, Ureters, Bladder] X-ray)

Procedure Overview

X-rays use invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film. Standard x-rays are performed for many reasons, including diagnosing tumors or bone injuries.

X-rays are made by using external radiation to produce images of the body, its organs, and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes. X-rays pass through body tissues onto specially treated plates (similar to camera film) and a "negative" type picture is made (the more solid a structure is, the whiter it appears on the film).

X-rays of the abdomen may be performed to assess the abdominal area for causes of abdominal pain, to locate swallowed foreign objects, or to locate an obstruction or perforation in the abdomen.

Abdominal x-rays may be taken with the patient in the upright position (erect abdominal view), lying flat with the exposure made from above the patient (supine abdominal view), or lying flat with the exposure made from the side of the patient (cross-table lateral view). The left side-lying position (left lateral decubitus view) may be used for patients who cannot stand erect.

When two or more of these views are taken while trying to locate a site of intestinal or abdominal obstruction, the set of films may be referred to as an obstruction series. The supine abdominal view may be referred to as a KUB (kidney, ureter, and bladder) film even when examining the gastrointestinal (GI) organs, because the x-ray study used to examine the kidneys, ureter, and bladder is very similar to the supine abdominal view.

Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose conditions of the abdomen include computed tomography (CT scan) of the abdomen, abdominal ultrasound, abdominal angiogram, or nuclear scans of specific abdominal organs such as the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas. Please see these procedures for additional information.

Reasons for the Procedure

Abdominal x-rays may be performed to diagnose causes of abdominal pain, such as masses, perforations, or obstruction. Abdominal x-rays may be performed prior to other procedures that evaluate the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or urinary tract, such as an abdominal CT scan and renal procedures.

Basic information regarding the size, shape, and position of abdominal organs may be obtained with abdominal x-rays. The presence of calcifications (stones) in the gallbladder, kidneys, or ureters may be noted. Calcification of the aorta may also be seen with an abdominal x-ray.

There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend an abdominal x-ray.

Risks of the Procedure

You may want to ask your physician about the amount of radiation used during the procedure and the risks related to your particular situation. It is a good idea to keep a record of your past history of radiation exposure, such as previous scans and other types of x-rays, so that you can inform your physician. Risks associated with radiation exposure may be related to the cumulative number of x-ray examinations and/or treatments over a long period of time.

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician. Radiation exposure during pregnancy may lead to birth defects.

There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.

Recent barium x-rays of the abdomen may interfere with the accuracy of an abdominal x-ray.

Before the Procedure

  • Your physician will explain the procedure to you and offer you the opportunity to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.

  • Generally, no prior preparation, such as fasting or sedation, is required.

  • Notify the radiologic technologist if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant.

  • Notify your physician and radiologic technologist if you have taken a medication that contains bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol, in the past four days. Medications that contain bismuth may interfere with testing procedures.

  • Based upon your medical condition, your physician may request other specific preparation.

Did You Know?

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