Abdominal Ultrasound


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is an ultrasound test?

An ultrasound test (also known as sonography or ultrasound scanning) is a non-invasive imaging modality that uses special sound waves called ultrasound waves to produce black and white images of the inside of your body including organs and major blood vessels.A Doppler ultrasound uses the doppler effect to bounce sound waves off the red blood cells circulating in the blood vessels to estimate the flow of blood.

What is an abdominal ultrasound?

An abdominal ultrasound is used to visualize the structures inside your abdominal cavity. The primary structures viewed include the liver, spleen, gall bladder, and pancreas. Major blood vessels including the abdominal aorta and inferior vena cava can also be viewed. The blood flow in these vessels can be assessed.

Why has my doctor ordered an abdominal ultrasound for me?

Your doctor may order an abdominal ultrasound for you if you present with-

Pain abdomen- It can vary from chronic dull pain to severe colicky pain.

Blood in the urine (hematuria).

Signs of liver damage (especially if you are on hepatotoxic drugs or alcohol).

You may be asked to go for an ultrasound abdomen if you are a male between the age of 65-75 years and have been a heavy smoker. The purpose is to look for an aneurysm (ballooning) of the abdominal aorta which is common in smokers this age.

An ultrasound abdomen can also be performed if you have recently suffered from blunt trauma to the abdomen to assess the extent of injury to the internal organs.

What can an abdominal ultrasound detect?

An abdominal ultrasound can detect a plethora of disorders including-

Kidney stones
– Gallstones
Splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen)
– Liver disorders (including fatty liver, cirrhosis and liver abscess)
– Aneurysm of the abdominal aorta
– Pancreatitis
– Acute appendicitis

A doppler ultrasound can detect abnormalities of abdominal blood vessels such as-

Congenital anomalies
– Tumors
– Obstruction in the lumen (secondary to a blood clot)
– Decreased blood flow to an organ
– Increase in blood flow to an organ (can signify an active infection)

Are there any risks involved?

An ultrasound of the abdomen is a non-invasive, painless, safe and risk-free diagnostic tool. It does not use any ionizing radiations and is thus harmless. You may, however, feel a bit of discomfort as the transducer is moved over your abdomen. At times, the sonologist may need to press hard against your skin to elicit better images. If your abdomen is tender, ask the sonologist to be gentle.

Can I undergo an abdominal ultrasound if I am pregnant?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to undergo an ultrasound abdomen if you are pregnant. No ionizing radiations are used during this procedure. However, there is a theoretical chance of a thermal injury when ultrasound waves are used, therefore the sonologist uses a very mild dose.

Can children undergo this procedure?

Yes, children can undergo this procedure. It is a noninvasive, painless and safe procedure.

Do I need to fast before an abdominal ultrasound?

Your physician may ask you to fast for 8-12 hours prior to undergoing an abdominal ultrasound. Loaded bowels or bladder can make it difficult for the sonologist to visualize your internal organs. You may, however, continue to take your medicines with sips of water. However, the instructions may vary depending on the organ that needs to be visualized.

How should I prepare for an abdominal ultrasound?

The following points must be kept in mind before you undergo an abdominal ultrasound-

– Do not eat or drink for 8-12 hours prior to the scheduled time for the test.

– Do not omit any medicines that you take routinely. You can take the medicines with sips of water. If you have any doubt, feel free to consult your physician.

– It is advisable to leave any jewelry or precious items that you may be wearing, at home before you leave for the hospital to undergo sonography.

How is an ultrasound of the abdomen performed?

An abdominal ultrasound is commonly performed on an outpatient basis. It is normally carried out in a doctor’s office or a diagnostic center. If you are already admitted to a hospital, it can be carried out in the radiology department of that hospital. Some hospitals also have the provision of bedside ultrasound in case the patient is not ambulatory.

– The procedure of an abdominal ultrasound involves the following steps-Before the examination, your physician will explain the details of the process to you. If you have any queries, you can voice them. You will be given a hospital gown to wear.

– You will be made to lie on a padded examination table in the supine (on your back) position. During the examination, you may be asked to change positions and to hold your breath periodically.

– The sonologist will apply a warm, non-sticky gel on your abdomen and on a device known as a transducer. This gel ensures that there is no air between the transducer and your skin.

It also ensures that there is no friction when the transducer moves over your abdomen. The transducer emits sounds of very high frequency (ultrasound waves) into your abdominal cavity.

– The waves are reflected by the internal organs. The transducer records the change in frequency and direction of these echoes and transmits them to a computer. The computer generates pictorial or video images of the organs and the blood vessels.

– The wave emitted by the transducer is a special kind of sound wave with a very high frequency and is thus not audible to the human ear. If a Doppler sonography is being done, you may hear some ‘pulse-like’ sounds.

How long does an abdominal ultrasound take?

The entire procedure of performing an abdominal ultrasound takes about half an hour to one hour.

Do I need to take special precautions after the ultrasound exam?

No specific precautions are required on your part once the process of ultrasound abdomen is over. As no sedation is used, you can resume your normal activities immediately after the examination.

When can I get the tests for my ultrasound exam?

The results of abdominal sonography are available within 24 hours of performing the test. In emergency cases, the results are declared immediately after the test.

Who interprets the results of my test?

A radiologist (a doctor trained in interpreting radiological results) will go over the images produced. He may send the result to the physician treating you or may talk to you directly about the report. Depending upon the findings, you may be asked to undergo additional diagnostic tests to arrive at a diagnosis.

What is the cost of undergoing an abdominal ultrasound in India?

The cost of performing abdominal sonography in India ranges from Rs 500 to 1500.

Can an ultrasound abdomen be used as a therapeutic tool?

Ultrasound abdomen is only a diagnostic modality and not a therapeutic tool. However, it can be used to guide minimally invasive procedures such as paracentesis and biopsies.

What are the advantages and limitations of an abdominal ultrasound?

Advantages Limitations
It is a non-invasive, safe and risk-free procedure. The images depend upon the technical acumen of the sonologist and the co-operation of the patient.
It does not employ any radiation (safe in pregnancy).The cystic duct cannot be visualized properly.
It can be performed at bedside and yields quick results in an emergency.The sensitivity of the test in the case of bile duct stones is low.
It is safe to be used in children.It is unable to view bowels if filled with gas or organs hidden by gas-filled bowels.

It provides real-time imaging of the organs and can also be used for guiding paracentesis and biopsies.
In an obese patient, the waves need to travel a great distance through the dense tissue, hampering image quality.

  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/abdominal-ultrasound/about/pac-20392738
  • https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/abdominal-ultrasound
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/4994-abdominal-ultrasound
  • https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1790777-overview


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