• Diagnostic Ultrasound of the Abdomen



    An ultrasound examines organs or tissue inside the body. Sound waves are used to make an image. If a Doppler ultrasound is done, the doctor can see blood flow in the vessels.
    Abdominal Ultrasound
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    Reasons for Test

    An ultrasound is used to find problems inside the abdominal cavity. It can show organs and movement. An ultrasound is most often done to:
    • Diagnose an injury or disease
    • Help determine the cause of abdominal pain
    • Identify gallbladder stones or kidney stones
    • Assess masses in the abdomen
    • Help determine why an internal organ is enlarged
    • Examine the baby and womb in pregnant women
    • Evaluate changes or problems in the blood vessels

    Possible Complications

    In most cases, there are no complications with this test.

    What to Expect

    Prior to test

    A physical exam may be done. Your bodily fluids may also be tested. This can be done with:
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    In some cases, your doctor may instruct you to:
    • Fast for 8-12 hours before the test. This will decrease the amount of gas in your intestines and make your organs easier to see.
    • Have a full bladder before the test. You may need to drink six or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.

    Description of the Test

    You will lie on a table. Your doctor will put gel on your stomach. The gel helps the sound waves travel between the machine and your body.
    The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel has been applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted into images that are shown on a screen. The images on the screen are examined. A photograph of them may be taken.
    You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.

    After Test

    The gel will be cleaned off your abdomen. You will be able to leave after the test is done. You will be able to return to your normal activities.

    How Long Will It Take?

    30 minutes

    Will It Hurt?

    No. But, if you have a full bladder during the test, you may feel uncomfortable.


    The images are looked at by doctors. A report will be given to your doctor. Based on the results, you and your doctor will talk about more tests and treatment options.

    Call Your Doctor

    After the test, call your doctor if the symptoms you had before the test become worse.
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    Association for Medical Ultrasound http://www.aium.org

    Radiological Society of North America http://www.radiologyinfo.org


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Radiology for Patients http://www.radiologyinfo.ca


    ACR practice guideline for performing and interpreting diagnostic ultrasound examinations. American College of Radiology website. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/13B896B9F4844E3082E7D7ED66AFC148.pdf. Updated 2011. Accessed March 5, 2013.

    General ultrasound imaging. Radiological Society of North America RadiologyInfo.org website. Available at: http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=genus. Updated July 2, 2012. Accessed March 5, 2013.

    Sanders RC. Real-time ultrasound in abdominal examinations. Radiology. 1979 Dec;133(3 Pt1):825.

    Revision Information

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