Sinus X-Ray for Sinusitis
X-rays are a form of radiation, like light or radio waves, that can be focused into a beam, much like a flashlight beam. But unlike a beam of light, X-rays can pass through most objects, including the human body. When X-rays strike a piece of photographic film, they produce a picture. Dense tissues in the body, such as bones, block (absorb) many of the X-rays and appear white on an X-ray picture. Less dense tissues, such as muscles and organs, block fewer of the X-rays (more of the X-rays pass through) and appear in shades of gray. Space that contains no tissue appears black on an X-ray picture.
To evaluate symptoms of possible sinusitis, X-rays of the sinuses may be taken from several directions.
Why It Is Done
An X-ray of the sinuses may sometimes be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis of acute sinusitis.
An X-ray of the sinuses was formerly the standard method of diagnosing acute sinusitis in the sinuses behind the cheeks (maxillary sinuses) or behind the eyebrows (frontal sinuses). Because a computed tomography (CT) scan shows a much clearer picture of the sinuses and other structures, the use of standard X-rays has declined.
However, standard X-rays are commonly used to help distinguish uncomplicated sinusitis from other problems that may cause similar symptoms, such as problems with the jaw joint, dental infections, or headache. The findings are often not reliable, though, so they should be evaluated with caution.
Findings of an X-ray of the sinuses may include the following.
Normal findings on an X-ray of the sinuses will show:
Standard X-rays are fairly good at showing the frontal and maxillary sinuses (those in the cheek and forehead). They do not show the ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses as well. See a picture of the location of the facial sinuses.
Abnormal findings on an X-ray of the sinuses may show evidence of fluid in the sinus or a thickened mucous membrane. This is strong evidence of a sinus infection.
What To Think About
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