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.
How the Test is Performed
A sinus x-ray is taken in a hospital radiology department. Or the x-ray may be taken in your health care provider's office. You will be 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 provider or x-ray technologist if you are or think you are pregnant. You will be asked to remove all jewelry. You may be asked to change into a gown.
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.
Paranasal sinus radiography; X-ray - sinuses
Beale T, Jawad S. Head and neck radiology. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 61.
Mettler FA. Head and soft tissues of face and neck. In: Mettler FA, ed. Essentials of Radiology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 2.
Review Date 9/10/2023
Updated by: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.