What is an abdominal ultrasound?

Updated: Dec 3, 2021


abdominal ultrasound

An upper abdominal ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure used to assess the organs and structures within the abdomen. This includes the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and abdominal aorta. A complete abdominal ultrasound examines those and adds the: bladder and male or female pelvic organs and structures
Ultrasound technology allows quick visualization of the abdominal organs and structures from outside the body. An ultrasound gel is placed on the transducer and the skin to allow for smooth movement of the transducer over the skin and to eliminate air between the skin and the transducer for the best sound conduction.
There is no radiation used and generally no discomfort from the application of the ultrasound transducer to the skin.. Ultrasound may be safely used during pregnancy or in the presence of allergies to contrast dye, because no radiation or contrast dyes are used.



Why might I need an abdominal ultrasound?


Upper abdominal ultrasound may be used to assess the size and location of abdominal organs and structures. It can also be used to check the abdomen for conditions such as:


● enlarged organ (such as the liver, spleen, or kidneys)

● Cysts , benign and malignant tumors of liver, spleen, pancreas or kidneys

● Gallstones

● Cholecystitis

● Biliary obstruction

● Pancreatitis

● Kidney blockage and stones

● Fluid in the abdominal cavity

● Blockages (clots) in blood vessels

● Collection of pus in the abdominal cavity (abscesses)

● Aortic aneurysm

A complete abdominal ultrasound can also reveal conditions such as;

● Bladder tumors or stones

● Appendicitis

● Hernia

● Ovarian cysts and tumors, uterine fibroids and malignant tumors (in women)

● Benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer (in men)




Abdominal ultrasound may be performed to assist in placement of needles used to biopsy abdominal tissue or to drain fluid from a cyst or abscess.

Abdominal ultrasound may also be used to assess the blood flow of various structures within the abdomen.

There may be other reasons for your doctor to recommend an abdominal ultrasound.



Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the results of the test. These include:

Severe obesity

Barium within the intestines from a recent barium procedure

Intestinal gas


How do I prepare for an abdominal ultrasound?

For an A.M. appointment, the patient should have a fat free dinner the evening before. Nothing to eat from midnight until after the examination. For a P.M. appointment, clear liquid breakfast (no milk) before 9 A.M. Nothing to eat after breakfast.

You may take your medications with a small amount of water.

Based on your medical condition, your doctor may request other specific preparation.

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