Sinus x-ray

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A sinus x-ray is an imaging test to look at the sinuses. These are the air-filled spaces in the front of the skull.

Alternative Names

Paranasal sinus radiography; X-ray - sinuses

How the Test is Performed

A sinus x-ray is taken in a hospital radiology department. Or the x-ray may be taken in the health care provider's office. You are asked to sit in a chair so that any fluid in the sinuses can be seen in the x-ray images. The technologist may place your head in different positions as the images are taken.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell your doctor if you are or think you are pregnant. You will be asked to remove all jewelry.

How the Test will Feel

There is little or no discomfort with a sinus x-ray.

Why the Test is Performed

The sinuses are located behind the forehead, nasal bones, cheeks, and eyes. When the sinus openings become blocked or too much mucus builds up, bacteria and other germs can grow. This can lead to an infection and inflammation of the sinuses called sinusitis.

A sinus x-ray is ordered when you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms of sinusitis
  • Other sinus disorders, such as a deviated septum (crooked or bent septum, the structure that separates the nostrils)
  • Symptoms of another infection of that area of the head

These days, a sinus x-ray is not often ordered. This is because a CT scan of the sinuses shows more detail.

What Abnormal Results Mean

The x-ray may detect an infection, blockages, bleeding or tumors.


There is low radiation exposure. X-rays are monitored and regulated so that the lowest amount of radiation is used to produce the image.

Pregnant women and children are more sensitive to the risks of x-rays.


Beale T, Brown J, Rout J. ENT, neck, and dental radiology. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 67.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/5/2015
  • Sumana Jothi MD, Specialist in Laryngology, Clinical Instructor UCSF Otolaryngology, NCHCS VA, SFVA, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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