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Abdominal ultrasound

Ultrasound - abdomen; Abdominal sonogram; Right upper quadrant sonogram

 

Abdominal ultrasound is a type of imaging test. It is used to look at organs in the abdomen, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. The blood vessels that lead to some of these organs, such as the inferior vena cava and aorta, can also be examined with ultrasound.

How the Test is Performed

 

An ultrasound machine makes images of organs and structures inside the body. The machine sends out high-frequency sound waves that reflect off body structures. A computer receives these waves and uses them to create a picture. Unlike with x-rays or CT scans, this test does not expose you to ionizing radiation.

You will be lying down for the procedure. A clear, water-based conducting gel is applied to the skin over the abdomen. This helps with the transmission of the sound waves. A handheld probe called a transducer is then moved over the abdomen.

You may need to change position so that the health care provider can look at different areas. You may also need to hold your breath for short periods during the exam.

Most of the time, the test takes less than 30 minutes.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

How you will prepare for the test depends on the problem. You will likely be asked not to eat or drink for several hours before the exam. Your provider will go over what you need to do.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

There is little discomfort. The conducting gel may feel a little cold and wet.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

You may have this test to:

  • Find the cause of abdominal pain
  • Find the cause of kidney infections
  • Diagnose and monitor tumors and cancers
  • Diagnose or treat ascites
  • Learn why there is swelling of an abdominal organ
  • Look for damage after an injury
  • Look for stones in the gallbladder or kidney
  • Look for the cause of abnormal blood tests such as liver function tests or kidney tests
  • Look for the cause of a fever

The reason for the test will depend on your symptoms.

 

Normal Results

 

The organs examined appear normal.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

The meaning of abnormal results depends on the organ being examined and the type of problem. Talk to your provider if you have any questions or concerns.

An abdominal ultrasound can indicate conditions such as:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Abscess
  • Appendicitis
  • Cholecystitis
  • Gallstones
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation in pancreas)
  • Spleen enlargement (splenomegaly)
  • Portal hypertension
  • Liver tumors
  • Obstruction of bile ducts
  • Cirrhosis

 

Risks

 

There is no known risk. You are not exposed to ionizing radiation.

 

 

References

Chen L. Abdominal ultrasound imaging. In: Sahani DV, Samir AE, eds. Abdominal Imaging. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 3.

Cosgrove DO, Eckersley RJ, Harvey CJ, Lim A. Ultrasound. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 3.

Kim DH, Pickhardt PJ. Diagnostic imaging procedures in gastroenterology. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 133.

 
  • Abdominal ultrasound

    Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

    Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.

    Abdominal ultrasound

    illustration

  • Digestive system

    Digestive system - illustration

    The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

    Digestive system

    illustration

  • Kidney anatomy

    Kidney anatomy - illustration

    The kidneys are responsible for removing wastes from the body, regulating electrolyte balance and blood pressure, and stimulating red blood cell production.

    Kidney anatomy

    illustration

  • Ultrasound in pregnancy

    Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

    The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions in the fetus including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

    Ultrasound in pregnancy

    illustration

  • Kidney - blood and urine flow

    Kidney - blood and urine flow - illustration

    This is the typical appearance of the blood vessels (vasculature) and urine flow pattern in the kidney. The blood vessels are shown in red and the urine flow pattern in yellow.

    Kidney - blood and urine flow

    illustration

  • Abdominal ultrasound

    Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

    The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department. A conducting paste is applied to your abdomen while you are lying down. The transducer (a hand-held instrument) is then moved over your abdomen.

    Abdominal ultrasound

    illustration

    • Abdominal ultrasound

      Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

      Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.

      Abdominal ultrasound

      illustration

    • Digestive system

      Digestive system - illustration

      The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.

      Digestive system

      illustration

    • Kidney anatomy

      Kidney anatomy - illustration

      The kidneys are responsible for removing wastes from the body, regulating electrolyte balance and blood pressure, and stimulating red blood cell production.

      Kidney anatomy

      illustration

    • Ultrasound in pregnancy

      Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

      The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions in the fetus including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

      Ultrasound in pregnancy

      illustration

    • Kidney - blood and urine flow

      Kidney - blood and urine flow - illustration

      This is the typical appearance of the blood vessels (vasculature) and urine flow pattern in the kidney. The blood vessels are shown in red and the urine flow pattern in yellow.

      Kidney - blood and urine flow

      illustration

    • Abdominal ultrasound

      Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

      The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department. A conducting paste is applied to your abdomen while you are lying down. The transducer (a hand-held instrument) is then moved over your abdomen.

      Abdominal ultrasound

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Abdominal ultrasound

           

           

          Review Date: 7/3/2016

          Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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