Ultrasound - Abdominal

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 that lead to some of these organs, such as the inferior vena cava and aorta, can also be examined with ultrasound.

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. You will be told to fast for 8 to 12 hours before your ultrasound especially if your ultrasound is specifically being done to view your gallbladder and liver. Contact our office for appointments and instructions.




How the Test Will Feel


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




Why the Test is Performed


Your health care provider may order this test to: 

  • Determine the cause of abdominal pain
  • Determine 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.




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 health care provider if you have any questions or concerns.




Risks


There is no documented risk. No ionizing radiation exposure is involved.




How the test is performed


An ultrasound machine creates images that allow various organs in the body to be examined. The machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which reflect off body structures to create a picture. A computer receives these reflected waves and uses them to create a picture. Unlike with x-rays or CT scans, there is no ionizing radiation exposure with this test.  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 be asked to change position so that the Radiologist or Ultrasonographer 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.




Who needs An Abdominal Ultrasound?


If you are looking for or have symptoms similar to:

  • enlarged organ (such as the liver, spleen, or kidneys)
  • fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • gallstone
  • hernia
  • pancreatitis
  • kidney blockage or cancer
  • kidney stone
  • liver cancer
  • appendicitis
  • Tumors and lymphadenopathy
  • Unexplained pain in the abdomen
  • Aortic aneurysm




How is an Abdominal Ultrasound Scan done?


  • you will be asked to change into a gown or remove your upper garments and remove any jewelry or other objects that might interfere with the scan.

  • Then you’ll lie down on the ultrasound table with your abdomen exposed.

  • The radiologist or ultrasound technician (sonographer) will put a special lubricating gel on your abdomen. The gel (sometimes a little cold) is used to prevent air pockets forming between the skin and the ultrasound transducer which would cause suboptimal images.

  • The transducer is moved over your abdomen and using sound waves produces images of your organs on the ultrasound monitor.

  • Images and measurements are saved on the ultrasound machine and sent to the Radiologist station for reporting using a digital PAC’s system.

  • If you’re having pain in your abdomen, you may feel slight discomfort during an ultrasound otherwise the scan should not be painful.

  • When the scan is done, the technician will clean the gel off your abdomen and ask you to put back on any items of clothing you had removed. The procedure usually lasts about 30 minutes.




What factors interfere with the results of an Abdominal Scan?


Due to any of the following conditions suboptimal images may be obtained making it difficult for the Radiologist to make a comprehensive diagnostic report.

  • severe obesity

  • food inside the stomach

  • barium (a liquid you swallow in some tests that helps your doctor see your stomach and gastrointestinal tract) leftover in the intestines from a recent barium procedure

  • excess intestinal gas

  • Once a radiologist is available you may wait 15– 20 minutes for the report.





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