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Patient education: Abdominal ultrasound (The Basics)

Patient education: Abdominal ultrasound (The Basics)

What is an abdominal ultrasound? — An abdominal ultrasound uses sound waves to creates pictures of the inside of the body. Doctors use this test to see the organs in the abdomen (belly). The abdomen is the part of the body between the chest and the pelvis.

Organs in the abdomen include the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys (figure 1 and figure 2). An ultrasound can also be done to look at the aorta, which is the main blood vessel that comes out of the heart.

An abdominal ultrasound shows the size of organs, how they are working, the blood flow, and if there is injury or disease.

How do I prepare for an abdominal ultrasound? — The doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to do anything special to prepare. This depends on why you are having an ultrasound and which organs they need to see.

You might be asked to:

Not eat anything for 8 to 12 hours before the test

Eat a fat-free meal the evening before the test

Drink a few glasses of water before the test, and avoid using the bathroom until after the test

In many cases, you do not need to do anything special before the test.

What happens during an abdominal ultrasound?

You might need to remove your clothes and put on a gown. You will be asked to lie down.

The doctor, nurse, or technician will put a small amount of gel on your abdomen.

They will press a thick wand, called a "transducer," against your skin. They will move the transducer around on your skin. Images will appear on a computer screen so the doctor can see the organs and structures in your abdomen. In some cases, color images give information about where and how fast blood is flowing.

This test does not usually hurt. But you might feel pressure when the transducer presses against your skin. You might need to change positions or hold your breath for a few seconds during the test.

An abdominal ultrasound usually takes about 30 minutes.

What happens after an abdominal ultrasound? — The doctor, nurse, or technician will wipe the gel off of your skin, and you will get dressed.

The doctor will review the ultrasound. The results might help them learn more about any problems in your abdomen. You might need to have other tests or procedures after your ultrasound. Discuss all test results with your doctor. They can help you understand what the results mean.

What are the risks of an abdominal ultrasound? — An abdominal ultrasound does not usually have any risks to your health. This test does not expose you to radiation like an X-ray or CT scan.

More on this topic

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Patient education: Abdominal aortic aneurysm (The Basics)
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Patient education: When your baby is measuring large during pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient education: When your baby is measuring small during pregnancy (The Basics)

Patient education: Chronic abdominal pain in children and adolescents (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Abdominal aortic aneurysm (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Diverticular disease (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Gallstones (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Acute pancreatitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Chronic pancreatitis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Cirrhosis (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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