Best Practices for Abdominal X-Rays

Nov 10, 2022 1:24:25 AM / by Chad Hutchison

Abdominal X-rays are one of the most commonly performed, simple imaging studies in medicine and are widely used to diagnose abdominal disorders. 

But just because they’re common doesn’t mean obtaining the best abdominal X-rays isn’t a daunting task. 

Here we'll discuss some helpful tips for taking the best abdominal radiographs in your office. Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is an Abdominal X-Ray?

The x-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation to take an image of bones, organs, and other body parts. It’s often used to help diagnose and treat medical conditions. 

During an abdominal x-ray, a beam of radiation will be sent through the abdomen, and an image will be recorded on a film or by a computer. The abdominal x-ray will help assess potential problems in a patient's abdominal cavity. It includes images of organs, such as the stomach, liver, spleen, and intestines. 

Another type of abdominal x-ray, the KUB, can be performed to examine the kidneys, ureters, and bladders. The KUB is named after the organs that are imaged in this x-ray.

Abdominal x-rays diagnose conditions such as:

  • Kidney and urinary bladder stones
  • Gallstones
  • Intestinal blockages
  • Perforations of the stomach or intestines
  • Ingestion of foreign objects
  • And more

To properly diagnose these conditions, the x-ray must be of the best possible quality and in the correct position. It’s also important to obtain the right number of images.

What Are the Best Practices for Abdominal X-Rays?

There are many variables to consider when preparing to take an abdominal x-ray. Patient positioning, machine settings, and the number of images all come to mind. Follow these five tips to ensure you are obtaining the best images possible:

1. Reducing Motion

Respiratory motion or patient movement can affect the quality of the abdominal X-ray. To avoid respiratory motion, take an x-ray at the end of expiration. Expiration is the longest pause in movement and will reduce the risk of artifacts in the image. If patients are moving due to pain or discomfort, sedation may be necessary to obtain a clear image.

2. Positioning

When the patient is in the incorrect position, it can lead to the superimposition of structures and the elongation of organs. To avoid this common mistake, the patient must be properly positioned for the radiograph. 

The most common position for the abdominal x-ray is the supine position with an anteroposterior projection. Certain positions assist in identifying specific conditions. For example, taking an abdominal x-ray while standing will allow you to see if there are any blockages or perforations in the digestive tract.

3. Exposure

Adjust the x-ray settings based on the depth. The cranial abdomen is usually wider and deeper than the caudal abdomen, so it’s important to adjust the settings for each area. This will ensure the areas of interest are appropriately captured. 

When imaging a patient where the depth of tissue is greater than 10 cm, it’s important to use an anti-scatter grid. An anti-scatter grid will reduce internal scatter and create a clearer image. 

In overweight patients, grids become even more important. When using an anti-scatter grid, you must alter the exposure factor to compensate for the change. This can be achieved by doubling or tripling the mAs.

4. Image the Entire Abdomen

It’s essential to image the whole abdomen, or a diagnosis can be missed. An abdominal x-ray should extend from the diaphragm to the inferior pubic rami. The lateral abdominal wall should also be included in this image. 

When a patient is bigger, this can be especially challenging to accomplish. One way to mitigate this challenge is to capture multiple images per view. Dividing the abdomen into segments will help ensure the complete abdomen is visualized. It’s recommended to divide the images into two segments: the cranial abdomen and the caudal abdomen. It may be necessary to make three divisions to capture the whole abdomen effectively.

5. Minimum Two Views

As the saying goes, one view is no view at all in radiology. It’s essential to take a minimum of two views for abdominal radiographs. It’s recommended to perform a lateral and ventrodorsal view to properly view all anatomy. 

If assessing the gastrointestinal tract, more views may be necessary. This could include a left and right lateral and a ventrodorsal view.

Looking To Upgrade Your X-Ray Equipment? We Can Help.

Whether you are looking for a new X-ray machine or are interested to find out if another X-ray machine better suits your needs, Maven Imaging is here to assist you. Either fill out a form directly on our website or give us a call to discuss your options. 

Maven Imaging is here to guide you through making the best decision in this purchase. We have new and used X-ray machines, and financing options available, to make purchasing your new X-ray machine a reality.

Tags: Digital X-ray System

Chad Hutchison

Written by Chad Hutchison