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Skull X-ray

Alternate Names

  • skull radiograph
  • X-ray of the head
  • X-ray of the skull
  • Site of skull X-ray
  • Skull X-ray

Definition

A skull X-ray is an imaging test that allows a healthcare professional to see the bones that make up the skull, face, and nasal sinuses. A few brain abnormalities can be seen as well, such as calcium deposits inside the brain.

Who is a candidate for the test?

A skull X-ray may be taken:
  • to look for a skull fracture when a person has suffered a head injury
  • to look for abnormalities of bone, such as cancer that has spread from other sites
  • to evaluate an unusually shaped head in a child, which may indicate hydrocephalus
  • to diagnose a sinus infection

How is the test performed?

A skull X-ray can be performed in a hospital, clinic, or office. The person is asked to lie or sit still on a special table. Many views, or pictures, are taken from the back, front, and sides.

What is involved in preparation for the test?

All jewelry above the neck should be removed before the X-ray. Dentures should also be removed.

What do the test results mean?

If a skull X-ray is read as normal, it may mean that there is no abnormality in the head, but it could also mean that the disease or injury is not the kind that would show up with an ordinary X-ray. A CT or MRI scan may be needed.
Abnormal findings may have many causes, including:
  • a sinus infection
  • a skull fracture (a break in one or more skull bones)
  • a brain tumor or cancer which may be infiltrating the bony skull
  • abnormal calcium deposits in the brain, which may be a sign of an infection, tumor, or other problem
  • a physical deformity of the skull in a baby, which may be present at birth or acquired when a newborn passes through the birth canal

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