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The plain abdominal radiograph


Peter Devitt
Consultant Surgeon
Chair, MCQ Panel of Examiners
Australian Medical Council


Whilst largely superseded by cross-sectional imaging, there are still many occasions where the plain abdominal radiograph provides more than sufficient information to help with diagnostic and management purposes. This simple investigation should always be considered before ordering the CT scan. The interpretation of the plain film should be done in a structured manner and the following observations made:

  • gas patterns
  • abnormal areas of calcification and other radio-opaque structures
  • bone structures
  • soft tissue shadowing
More useful information on the latter two categories is obtained from CT and MRI scanning. Here are ten examples from the second of the four listed categories.

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