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.
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
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
But 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
complications of sinusitis such as a bone infection develop or if it becomes
necessary to see more of the sinuses or bones that surround them, a CT scan may
Findings of an X-ray of the sinuses may include the
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.
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
What To Think About
X-rays of the sinuses may be unreliable in
diagnosing sinusitis in babies under 1 year of age. The sinus cavities are not
completely developed in children. A partly developed sinus on X-ray can look
like it is infected.
X-rays provide limited information about the
sinuses located at the bridge of the nose (ethmoid sinuses), at the back of the
nasal passage (sphenoid sinuses), or about the bony structure that surrounds
the drainage openings of the sinuses (ostiomeatal complex).
be difficult to interpret the results of a sinus X-ray. The X-ray may suggest
sinusitis when the problem is actually something else.
X-ray is less expensive than a CT scan, but it will also provide less
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