Diseases & Conditions

Abdominal Film - Abdominal X-Rays


Overview & Description

Abdominal X-rays are a series of X-rays taken to diagnose certain abdominal problems. A KUB is an abdominal X-ray that looks at the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.

Who is a candidate for the test?

Abdominal X-rays may be ordered if the healthcare provider suspects a problem involving the organs in the abdominal cavity. Common examples of these problems are:

  • abdominal pain
  • bowel obstruction
  • foreign object that has been swallowed
  • kidney disorder
  • mass or swelling
  • perforation, or hole, in the bowel
  • severe constipation or diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • How is the test performed?

    X-rays are electromagnetic waves of energy that form a picture of bones or other tissues inside the body. The density of the tissue helps dictate how far the X-rays penetrate. Tiny amounts of radiation absorbed by the tissues produce various grades of black and white on X-ray film. An X-ray exam is painless.

    When abdominal X-rays are taken, the X-rays may include the:

  • chest
  • flat abdomen, which is taken while lying down
  • upright abdomen, which is taken while standing
  • A person unable to stand may be asked to lie on his or her left side for one of the films.


    Preparation & Expectations

    What is involved in preparation for the test?

    A person having an X-ray will completely undress and put on a hospital gown. Jewelry and other metal objects should be removed. The person will be asked the following questions:

  • if he or she can briefly hold a breath
  • if he or she has any metal objects in his or her body
  • if he or she has had a barium enema or upper GI series in the past 4 to 5 days
  • if he or she has taken any medicine with bismuth in it, such as Pepto-Bismol
  • when he or she last ate or had something to drink
  • A woman will also be asked if she might be pregnant. She may also be asked if she has an intrauterine device, or IUD.


    Results and Values

    What do the test results mean?

    Abdominal X-rays can detect a wide variety of problems. Some common examples include:

  • abnormal masses
  • bowel obstruction
  • enlarged organs
  • fluid, such as blood or other body fluid, in the abdominal cavity
  • gallstones and kidney stones
  • perforation in the bowel
  • pneumonia, which could be the cause of abdominal symptoms

  • Attribution

    Author:James Compton, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:05/31/01
    Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:04/28/01