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.
A sinus X-ray is simple and quick and doesn't involve any tools 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:
You may also need a sinus X-ray after sinus surgery.
Your provider may have other reasons to advise 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 unborn
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 them 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 if you have 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
Generally, a sinus X-ray follows this process:
You will be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that may get in the way of
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.
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.
The technologist will ask you to hold still for a few moments while the X-ray is made.
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.
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.
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.
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