Abdominal X-ray - Abnormal soft tissues and bones
Bone disease

Key points

  • Assess bones and joints on an abdominal X-ray
  • Bone disease may be incidental or pivotal to diagnosis

Localised or widespread bone disease may give rise to abdominal symptoms. If you suspect bone or joint disease then dedicated images of the area in question are required.

Occasionally there will be unexpected bone disease seen on an abdominal X-ray which may be incidental only, or pivotal to diagnosis.

Bone tumours

Bone metastases may be seen on abdominal X-rays. These can be lytic (low density - black) or sclerotic (higher density - white). The most frequently encountered bone metastases are prostate cancer in men which is sclerotic, and breast cancer in women which can be sclerotic or lytic.

Bone metastases

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Bone metastases

  • There are numerous sclerotic densities (white) of the vertebrae, sacrum, pelvis and proximal femora
  • This patient had a known history of breast cancer
  • Abdominal pain was actually due to high serum calcium

Benign bone lesions

Benign lesions of bone may also be seen incidentally on an abdominal X-ray.

Paget's disease

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Paget's disease

  • This patient has Paget's disease which affects his lumbar spine and right hemipelvis
  • This was an incidental finding when looking for a cause of abdominal pain
  • The typical features of Paget's are bone expansion and coarsening of the trabecular pattern involving the whole of the bone(s) affected

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

Last reviewed: February 2016