Skull X-Ray

Test Overview

A skull X-ray is a series of pictures of the bones of the skull. Skull X-rays have largely been replaced by computed tomography (CT) scans. A skull X-ray may help find head injuries, bone fractures, or abnormal growths or changes in bone structure or size.

Why It Is Done

A skull X-ray may be done to find fractures and metallic foreign objects stuck in the skull. They can also check problems on a baby's head, such as an odd shaped skull. Skull X-rays have largely been replaced by CT scans.

How To Prepare

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How It Is Done

You will need to remove any jewelry that may be in the way of the X-ray picture. You will also need to remove glasses or dentures.

You may be asked to lie on an X-ray table or sit in a chair. The bones of the skull and face are so detailed that several views from different angles are needed. A series of X-ray pictures is usually taken from the front, back, top, and sides of your head. Hold your head completely still while the pictures are being taken. A padded brace, foam pads, a headband, or sandbags may be used to hold your head in place while the pictures are taken.

How long the test takes

Skull X-rays usually take about 10 to 20 minutes. You will wait about 5 minutes until the X-rays are processed in case repeat pictures need to be taken. In some clinics and hospitals, X-ray pictures can be shown right away on a computer screen (digitally).

Watch

How It Feels

You won't feel any pain from the X-ray itself. You may find that the positions you need to hold are uncomfortable or painful. This is more likely if you have an injury.

Risks

There is always a slight chance of damage to cells or tissue from radiation, including the low levels of radiation used for this test. But the chance of damage from the X-rays is extremely low. It is not a reason to avoid the test.

If you need an X-ray during pregnancy, a lead apron will be put over your belly to protect the baby from exposure to radiation from the X-rays. The chance of harm is usually very low compared with the benefits of the test.

Results

In an emergency, the doctor can see the initial results of a skull X-ray in a few minutes. Otherwise, a radiologist usually has the official X-ray report ready the next day.

Skull X-ray

Normal:

The bones of the skull are normal in size and appearance.

No foreign objects, abnormal growths, or bone abnormalities are present.

No broken bones are present.

Abnormal:

Foreign objects, such as fragments of metal or glass, may be present.

Abnormal growths, such as tumors, may be present.

Broken bones may be present.

Signs of a disease that affects the bones of the skull may be present.

Credits

Current as of: September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Howard Schaff MD - Diagnostic Radiology