Ultrasound (Abdominal)

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An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of structures in the body. A Doppler ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound that can show blood flow in the vessels.

Reasons for an Abdominal Ultrasound   

An ultrasound shows the details of structures in the abdomen. It can show features like the size and movement of organs, cysts or growths, or fluid collections. An ultrasound of the abdomen is most often done to:

  • Diagnose an injury or disease
  • Help determine the cause of abdominal pain, especially appendicitis
  • Identify gallbladder stones or kidney stones
  • Assess masses or fluid collections in the abdomen
  • Assess the cause of abnormal liver or kidney function
  • Help determine why an internal organ is enlarged
  • Examine the baby and uterus in pregnant women
  • Evaluate changes or problems in the blood vessels  

Preparing for an Ultrasound

A physical exam may be done. Bodily fluids may also be tested with blood or urine tests. Your doctor may advise that you:

  • Fast for 8-12 hours before the test to decrease the amount of gas in your intestines and make organs easier to see
  • Have a full bladder before the test by drinking 6 or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom

During an Ultrasound

You will be positioned on a table. A gel will be placed over the area that will be checked. The gel helps the sound waves travel from a wand to your body.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held wand. The wand is pushed against your skin where the gel has been applied. The wand sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the wand. The computer can convert echoes into images on a screen. The images on the screen are examined by your doctor. A photograph of them may be taken.

About an Ultrasound

  • You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath
  • You shouldn't feel any pain
  • Should last 30 minutes or less
  • You will be able to return to your normal activities afterwards

Exam Results    

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.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.