Abdominal X-ray - Abnormal bowel gas pattern

Tutorial key points

  • Suspected bowel obstruction or perforation are the main indications for abdominal X-ray
  • An ERECT chest X-ray should be requested if perforation is suspected
  • The pattern of bowel dilatation may help determine a level of obstruction
  • Occasionally features of inflammatory bowel disease are demonstrated on abdominal X-rays

Related tutorials

This brief tutorial has discussed the important abnormalities of bowel gas which may be demonstrated on an abdominal X-ray.

If bowel perforation is suspected don't forget to request an erect chest X-ray.

In the context of obstruction, the level may be determined on an abdominal X-ray.

There is also a role for abdominal X-rays in the assessment of an acute exacerbation of inflammatory bowel disease.

Page author: Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust UK (Read bio)

Last reviewed: February 2016