An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of structures in the body. A
is a special type of ultrasound that can show blood flow in the vessels.
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An ultrasound is used to show 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 diseaseHelp determine the cause of abdominal pain, especially appendicitis
kidney stonesAssess masses or fluid collections in the abdomenAssess the cause of abnormal liver or kidney functionHelp determine why an internal organ is enlargedExamine the baby and uterus in pregnant womenEvaluate changes or problems in the blood vessels
In most cases, there are no complications with this test.
A physical exam may be done. Bodily fluids may also be tested. This can be done with blood or urine tests.
In some cases, the doctor may advise the following: Fast for 8-12 hours before the test. This will decrease the amount of gas in the intestines and make organs easier to see.Have a full bladder before the test. The doctor may advise drinking 6 or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.
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.
You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.
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.
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.
After the test, call your doctor if the symptoms you had before the test become worse.
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
ACR practice guideline for performing and interpreting diagnostic ultrasound examinations. American College of Radiology website. Available at:
Updated 2014. Accessed February 15, 2016.
General ultrasound imaging. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=genus. Updated June 23, 2014. Accessed February 15, 2016.
Ultrasound—abdomen. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=abdominus. Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed
February 15, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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