Abdominal ultrasound is an imaging procedure used to examine the internal organs of the abdomen including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. The blood vessels to some of these organs can also be evaluated with the use of ultrasound techniques.
The ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves that reflect off body structures to create a picture. Unlike with x-rays , there is no ionizing radiation exposure with this test.
Alternative Names: Ultrasound - abdomen; Abdominal sonogram
How the test is performed:
The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department. You will be lying down for the procedure. A clear, water-based conducting gel is applied to the skin over the area being examined to help with the transmission of the sound waves. The ultrasound transducer (a handheld probe) is then moved over the abdomen.
You may be asked to move to other positions so the health care provider can examine different areas. You may also be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time during the examination.
The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.
How to prepare for the test:
Preparation for the procedure depends on the nature of the problem and your age. Usually patients are asked to not eat or drink for several hours before the examination. Your health care provider will advise you about specific preparation.
How the test will feel:
There is little discomfort. The conducting gel may feel slightly cold and wet.
Why the test is performed:
There are many reasons for performing an abdominal ultrasound, including looking for the following:
- A cause of abdominal pain
- Stones in the gallbladder or kidney
- A cause for enlargement of an abdominal organ
The reason for the examination will depend on your symptoms.
The organs examined are normal in appearance.
What abnormal results mean:
The significance of abnormal results depends on the organ being examined and the nature of the problem. You should consult your health care provider with any questions and concerns.
Many possible conditions could be revealed by an abdominal ultrasound. Some of these include:
What the risks are:
There is no documented risk. No ionizing radiation exposure is involved.