What Can an Abdominal X-Ray Diagnose?

Last updated: 19th December 2017

What is an abdominal x-ray?

Abdominal x-rays (AXR) are a plain x-ray of the abdomen and can be used to diagnose:

  • The presence obstruction (enlarged bowel with trapped air)
  • Perforation (free air outside of the bowel wall)
  • Organomegaly (increased solid organ size)
  • The presence of stones and constipation.

What can an abdominal x-ray diagnose?

Abdominal x-ray is useful in investigating flank pain (to look for kidney stones) and may also delineate the size and shape of organs such as the liver, kidney or spleen.

It can be used to investigate symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and constipation and to determine the cause of abdominal distension (small or large bowel obstruction is classically well visualised).

It can also be used to determine the presence of free air (in conditions such as perforated duodenum secondary to an ulcer).

How is an abdominal x-ray performed?

Abdominal x-ray is performed by a radiographer in an x-ray room.

It may be taken with the patient in an upright position (erect), lying down flat (supine) or lying on the side (decubitus).

It can also be fine tuned to focus on the kidney, ureter and bladder (KUB).

It is important you inform your doctor if you are pregnant as there is a small risk to the foetus, particularly in early pregnancy.

Related specialists

Related tests

Also known as

  • AXR
  • KUB
  • E&S AXR



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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.