What Is an Abdominal Film?
An abdominal film, also known as an abdominal X-ray, helps your doctor assess potential problems in
your abdominal cavity, stomach, and intestines. Your doctor may perform this
procedure to help detect a particular condition such as kidney stones or
Instead of examining the entire abdominal area, your doctor may
order a KUB X-ray, which is a variation of an abdominal film that focuses on
the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. The procedure gets its name
from the first letter of each of these body parts.
Why Are Abdominal Films Ordered?
Your doctor might order an abdominal X-ray if you’re having one
or more of the following symptoms:
- chronic nausea
- ongoing vomiting
- abdominal pain
- flank or back pain
- abdominal swelling
Your doctor may also order this test if they think that you might
have any of the following conditions:
An abdominal film can also help your doctor locate the precise
position of an object you’ve swallowed. Alternatively, your doctor might use
this test to make sure that a tube or catheter is in the correct location.
These are often placed to allow for drainage or the administration of fluids or
Preparing for an Abdominal Film
Unless your doctor informs you otherwise, you won’t need to fast,
change your diet, or do anything major to prepare for an abdominal film.
Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant. Abdominal films involve low
levels of radiation and are typically not recommended for pregnant women. If you’re
pregnant, your doctor will probably choose to do an ultrasound to avoid any
risk to the fetus.
Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking. This is
particularly important if you have taken Pepto-Bismol or another medication
containing bismuth in the four days before the abdominal film. Bismuth can
affect the clarity of the images, so your doctor needs to know if you’ve taken
Inform your doctor if you have recently had an X-ray test that
involved barium contrast material. Similar to the bismuth in Pepto-Bismol,
barium can prevent a clear picture in your abdominal film.
Abdominal Film Procedure
When you arrive at the office for your abdominal X-ray, you’ll need
to remove any jewelry. You’ll probably also need to change into a hospital gown.
You’ll likely need to lie down on your back on a table. In some
cases, you may need to lie on your side or even stand up instead. Depending on
what your doctor is looking for, you might need to have X-rays taken from
several angles. This means you might be asked to change positions.
You must remain perfectly still during the X-ray. You may even
need to hold your breath at certain points to ensure that your abdomen doesn’t
Interpreting the Results of Your Abdominal
An abdominal film can reveal various issues in the abdomen. These
- a mass
- fluid buildup
- an injury
- a blockage
- a foreign object
- stones in the gallbladder, bladder, kidneys, or
The film also allows your doctor to identify whether certain organs
are enlarged or out of their proper position.
Remember that an abdominal film only lets your doctor see what’s
going on in your abdomen. It does not detect all possible problems or give
definitive answers to all of your questions. Your doctor will discuss the
implications of any issues detected in the abdominal film. Some findings may require
Possible Risks of an Abdominal Film
An abdominal film is a low-risk procedure. You’ll be exposed
to low levels of radiation,
as radiation is required to take X-rays. Depending on the reason for the
abdominal film, you may feel pain or discomfort from lying on your back or side
for the procedure.