Abdominal ultrasound is an type of imaging test. It is used to examine organs in the abdomen including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. The blood vessels that lead to some of these organs can also be looked at with ultrasound.
Ultrasound – abdomen; Abdominal sonogram
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 healthcare 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
Preparation steps vary depending on the problem. Most of the time, people are asked not to eat or drink for several hours before the exam. Your healthcare 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 a hernia
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.
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 healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.
An abdominal ultrasound can indicate conditions such as:
Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Kidney stones
- Pancreatitis (inflammation in pancreas)
- Spleen enlargement (splenomegaly)
What the risks are
There is no known risk. You are not exposed to ionizing radiation.