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What is a sinus x-ray? 

Sinus x-ray is a diagnostic technique in which x-rays are used to see your sinuses. Sinuses are hollow (air-filled) spaces within the bones that surround the nose.

During an x-ray imaging procedure, a small dose of radiation passes through the part of the body being tested and creates an image on a film. Bones appear white on an x-ray image, while air appears black. 

A sinus x-ray helps to identify problems in the sinuses. However, it does not reveal the cause of the problem.

The sinus x-ray is also called paranasal sinus radiography or x-ray of the sinuses.

  1. Who cannot have a sinus x-ray?
  2. Why is a sinus x-ray done?
  3. How should I prepare for a sinus x-ray?
  4. How is a sinus x-ray done?
  5. How will a sinus x-ray feel like?
  6. What do the results of a sinus x-ray mean?
  7. What are the risks and benefits of a sinus x-ray?
  8. What happens after a sinus x-ray?
  9. What are the other tests that can be done with a sinus x-ray?

An x-ray is usually not performed in pregnant women unless it is an emergency.

Your doctor may order this test if he/she suspects that you have the following conditions:

Sinusitis is an inflammatory condition in which the sinuses get filled with fluid. 

Acute sinusitis occurs when the symptoms suddenly appear and do not go away even after ten days. In chronic sinusitis, the symptoms persist for at least 12 weeks. 

Some symptoms of sinusitis are as follows:

Meningitis is an infection in the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord. It shows symptoms such as:

Orbital cellulitis is the infection of the muscles and fats around your eyes. It shows symptoms like:

  • Bulging eyes
  • Painful swelling of the eyelid, eyebrow and cheek
  • Decreased vision
  • Fever
  • Feeling ill
  • Difficulty in moving eyes with double vision

A sinus X-ray is also used to look at the sinuses after a sinus surgery. Read more: Sinusotomy

Your healthcare provider will explain the test procedure and it’s risks to you. He/she may also give you certain instructions to follow before the test. Make sure to follow them properly. 

Inform your doctor if you:

  • are pregnant.
  • have a prosthetic (artificial) eye, as it may create a shadow on the sinus x-ray that may be misleading. 

Make sure to take off all your jewellery and any other items that may interfere with the test.

The technologist will perform the test as follows:

  • You will be asked to sit or lie down on the x-ray table.
  • A technologist will cover your body with a lead apron so it is not exposed to scattered x-rays.
  • Then, he/she will carefully position your head so that it is between the x-ray film and the x-ray machine.
  • The technician will ask you to keep your head still or may use a foam vice to keep your head in place while the x-ray is taken. 
  • You may have to change your position a few times so that the technologist can take images from different angles to get more information.
  • The test is usually completed in a few minutes.

You will not feel anything during the sinus x-ray.

The x-ray may detect the following problems in the sinuses:

The benefits of this test are:

  • Non-invasive
  • Quick

The risks associated with this test are:

  • X-ray exposure during pregnancy may cause birth defects.

After the test, you do not need any special care unless advised otherwise.

A CT scan or MRI of the sinuses may be suggested to get more detailed images.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.


  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; Sinus X-ray
  2. University of Rochester Medical Center [Internet]. University of Rochester. New York. US; Sinus X-ray
  3. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital - San Francisco [Internet]. California. US; Sinuses X-ray
  4. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; X-ray
  5. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. Ohio. US; Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)
  6. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017; Meningitis
  7. McNab AA. Orbital infection and inflammation. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 12.14.
  8. Bhatt A. Ocular infections. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 61
  9. Durand ML. Periocular infections. Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. In: Bennett John, Dolin Raphael, Blaser Martin J. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 118
  10. Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Sinus radiography - diagnostic. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:1020-1021
  11. Beale T, Brown J, Rout J. ENT, neck, and dental radiology. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 67

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