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Interpreting abdominal radiographs

Understanding the large variations in normal anatomy will lead to more confident interpretation

  • By: Jen-Jou Wong, Latifa Patel, John Curtis
  • Published: 13 September 2012
  • DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.e5375
  • Cite this as: Student BMJ 2012;20:e5375

The abdominal radiograph can be difficult to interpret, and it is often given less teaching time than its more popular sibling, the chest radiograph. This is despite its being the third most commonly requested radiological investigation, after chest and extremity radiographs. Competence in the interpretation of abdominal films is needed, given their ubiquity in surgical specialties and the need for doctors to request and interpret these films while on call or in the emergency department.

Abdominal radiographs can display a wide variety of normal presentations, so familiarity with these is important (fig 1). It is also important to compare the radiograph with previous films, if they are available, to note any progression or detection of pathology.

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