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Abdominal X-rays

Alternate Names

  • abdominal film
  • KUB
  • Abdominal film

Definition

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
  • a bowel obstruction
  • a foreign object that has been swallowed
  • a kidney disorder
  • a mass or swelling
  • a 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.

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 X-ray 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 (IUD).

What do the test results mean?

Abdominal X-rays can detect a wide variety of problems. Some common examples include:
  • abnormal masses
  • a bowel obstruction
  • enlarged organs
  • fluid, such as blood or other body fluid, in the abdominal cavity
  • gallstones and kidney stones
  • a perforation in the bowel
  • pneumonia, which could be the cause of abdominal symptoms

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