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Abdominal X-ray

Last updated May 24, 2018

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

An Abdominal X-ray is a non-invasive image procedure that uses ionizing radiation to generate images of the stomach and abdomen (and other body parts).


Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Abdominal Plain Film
  • Kidney Ureter and Bladder (KUB) X-ray
  • KUB X-ray

What is an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure? (General Explanation)

  • An Abdominal X-ray is a non-invasive image procedure that uses ionizing radiation to generate images of the stomach and abdomen (and other body parts)
  • On an X-ray image, bones appear white and air (spaces or cavities) black. Other tissues appear as varying shades of grey

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

An Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure involves the stomach, liver, intestines, spleen, kidneys, ureter, and urinary bladder.

Why is the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure Performed?

An Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure can be used to detect or diagnose:

  • Blockages in the digestive tract
  • Perforation of the stomach or digestive tract
  • Kidney stones or bladder stones
  • Unexplained and severe nausea and vomiting

What are the Alternative Choices for the Procedure?

A CT scan of the abdomen is a possible alternative to an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure.

What is the Equipment used? (Description of Equipment)

The following may be used for an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure:

  • Examination table with specialized film to capture the image generated from the X-rays
  • X-ray machine, which generates X-rays for the scan, may be:
    • A large unit positioned above the table
    • A portable unit with large arm that can be maneuvered to capture the image.

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

There are no recent advances to an Abdominal X-Ray radiology procedure.

What is the Cost of performing the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

The cost of an Abdominal X-ray procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused with a sudden inflow of information regarding an Abdominal X-ray procedure and what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple steps or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently

What are some Helpful Resources?

Barry James, B. (2013). The Abdominal Radiograph. The Ulster Medical Journal, 82(3), 179. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3913410/

Prior to Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure:

How does the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure work?

X-rays, produced by the machine, either pass through or are deflected by parts of the body.

  • If most of the X-rays pass through a structure, it appears black (such as air-filled lungs)
  • If a majority of the X-rays are deflected, it appears white (as in bones)
  • Many structures (tissues usually) will appear in shades of grey
  • Based upon a visual examination, the radiologist or physician makes an interpretation of the image

How is the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure Performed?

The procedure is performed in the following manner:

  • The patient lies down on the examination table and the X-ray tube is positioned above the affected part (abdomen), or region to be imaged
  • The patient is asked to remain motionless or still, to avoid any blurriness in the image being taken
  • The radiology technologist takes the X- image using a control panel

Where is the Procedure Performed?

An Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure is generally preformed as an outpatient procedure at a hospital.

Who Performs the Procedure?

The procedure is generally preformed by a radiology technologist under the supervision of a radiologist.

How long will the Procedure take?

The imaging time of the procedure should take less than 15 minutes.

Who interprets the Result?

A radiologist interprets the results of the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

The following preparations are needed prior to an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure:

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the overall health status of the patient, including information related to the medications that are currently being taken
  • Do inform the medical professional if you have a history of any medical conditions, such as a heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Women should inform their physicians if they are breastfeeding, pregnant, or if there is a chance that they might be pregnant
  • The patient may be asked to avoid eating or drinking several hours before the test

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for the Abdominal X-ray procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What are the Benefits versus Risks, for this Procedure?

Following are the benefits of the procedure:

  • An X-ray scan is a painless, quick, and a non-invasive procedure
  • It is easily available
  • Low cost
  • The radiation does not remain in the patient’s body after the procedure

Following are the risks of the procedure:

  • As with any exam that uses ionizing radiation there is a very small risk of developing cancer with repeated exposure
  • Exposure of ionizing radiation can be harmful to a developing fetus and should be avoided if possible, during pregnancy

What are the Limitations of the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

  • X-ray examinations are not as capable of evaluating damage to tissues as CT or MRI imaging studies; certain conditions or diseases may be missed
  • X-ray examinations should be avoided during pregnancy

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your healthcare provider or physician are as follows:

  • What is an Abdominal X-ray procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place during recovery?
  • What are the possible side effects from the procedure? How can I minimize these side effects?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure:

What is expected during the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

  • There is no pain felt during an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure
  • Some individuals may find the examination table uncomfortable

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

No anesthesia is administered during an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

There is no blood loss involved in the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

As with any X-ray examination, there is a small risk of developing cancer with repeated exposure.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

No additional care is need at the healthcare facility after an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure.

After the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure:

What is to be expected after the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

Generally, no complications or side effects are observed after the radiology procedure.

When do you need to call your Physician?

An Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure is an uncomplicated procedure and generally carries a minimal risk.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

No additional care is needed at home after an Abdominal X-Ray radiology procedure.

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

No recovery time is involved following an Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

An Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure does not involve the removal of any body tissue.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is removed during the radiology procedure, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Abdominal X-ray radiology procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers. 

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The hospital, where the procedure is performed
  • Healthcare providers, physicians, and radiologists, who are involved in the process

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before the Abdominal X-ray procedure is performed.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 28, 2017
Last updated: May 24, 2018