Examination of the internal organs in the abdomen using high-frequency sound waves. If a Doppler ultrasound is done, the doctor is able to see blood flow in major blood vessels.

PARTS OF THE BODY INVOLVED

  • An abdominal ultrasound can examine the following:
  • Abdomen
  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Gallbladder
  • Kidneys
  • Ovaries and uterus (including pregnant uterus and fetus within)
  • Aorta and other abdominal arteries (via Doppler ultrasound)

REASONS FOR PROCEDURE

Ultrasound produces real-time images of soft tissue and can capture movement of internal organs. Therefore, it is used to visualize and diagnose problems inside the abdominal cavity. A diagnostic ultrasound is most often performed for the following reasons:

  • To diagnose an injury or disease of the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, or other organs inside the abdomen
  • To help determine the cause of abdominal pain
  • To identify gallbladder or kidney stones
  • To assess for tumors, cysts, abscesses, or other masses in the abdomen
  • To help determine why an internal organ is enlarged
  • To examine a pregnant uterus and the fetus within
  • To evaluate the aorta for the presence of an aneurysm
  • To evaluate narrowing of the arteries in the abdomen
  • To assess a spleen injury
  • To evaluate liver disease or pancreatitis
  • To locate a foreign object in the abdomen, such as a bullet

RISK FACTORS FOR COMPLICATIONS DURING THE PROCEDURE

  • Both obesity and dehydration can make it more difficult to identify organs during the test
  • Air in the intestines may block views of the internal organs
  • The presence of barium or other contrast materials in the intestine can block views of the internal organs (therefore, abdominal ultrasound should be done before other diagnostic imaging tests that require contrast material)

WHAT TO EXPECT

Prior to Procedure

YOUR DOCTOR WILL LIKELY DO THE FOLLOWING:

  • Physical exam
  • Sometimes, blood tests and other tests

When making the appointment, ask about dietary instructions. You may be asked to fast for 8-12 hours before the test to decrease the amount of gas in the intestines. For some types of ultrasound, a full bladder helps visualization. In these cases, you will be asked to drink six or more glasses of water, and not to urinate before the scan.

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing

During Procedure - Lie still on a flat table in a darkened room. The darkness helps the technician see images on the screen.

Anesthesia - None

Description of the Procedure - The technician applies a conductive gel to the abdomen, and presses a transducer against the skin. This is a small, hand-held device that converts energy from one form to another. The gel helps transmit sound waves between the skin and the transducer, because these waves cannot travel through air.

The transducer sends high - frequency sound waves toward the internal organs, which reflect the sound waves back to the skin. The transducer receives these sound waves and converts them into electrical impulses that become a visible image on the echocardiography machine.

The technician watches the images as they appear on the machine's screen. The technician can capture a still image or videotape moving images for review at a later time. To obtain clearer and more complete images, the technician may move the transducer to different places on the abdomen. You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.

After Procedure - Clean gel off the abdomen

How Long Will It Take? About 30 minutes

Will It Hurt? No. An ultrasound is not invasive and not painful. The gel may feel cold when it is first applied, and holding the transducer tightly against the skin produces a sensation of pressure and in some cases discomfort. For instance, pressure on a full bladder feels uncomfortable.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS:

None

Average Hospital Stay - None

POSTOPERATIVE CARE:

  • Clean the gel off your skin
  • Resume normal activities unless directed otherwise by the doctor

OUTCOME

A radiologist analyzes and interprets the images created by the ultrasound and gives a report to your doctor. Your doctor will make recommendations for treatment based on this report.

CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF ANY OF THE FOLLOWING OCCURS

· Your symptoms become worse

SOURCE:
American College of Radiology
Radiological Society of North America

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