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    Abdominal ultrasound

    Ultrasound - abdomen; Abdominal sonogram

    Abdominal ultrasound is an type of imaging test. It is used to examine organs inthe abdomen including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. The blood vessels that lead to some of these organs can also be looked at with ultrasound.

    How the Test is Performed

    An ultrasound machine makes images of organs and structures insidethe body. The machine sends out high-frequency sound waves thatreflect off body structures. A computer receives thesewaves and uses them to create a picture. Unlike with x-rays or CT scans, this test does not expose you toionizing radiation.

    You will be lying down for the procedure. A clear, water-based conducting gel is applied to the skin over the abdomen. This helps with the transmission of the sound waves. A handheld probe called a transducer is then moved over the abdomen.

    You may need tochange position so that the health care provider can look at different areas. You may also need to hold your breath for short periods during the exam.

    Most of the time,the testtakes less than 30 minutes.

    How to Prepare for the Test

    Preparation steps vary depending on the problem. Most of the time, people are asked not toeat or drink for several hours before the exam. Your health care provider will go over what you need to do.

    How the Test Will Feel

    There is little discomfort. The conducting gel may feela littlecold and wet.

    Why the Test is Performed

    You may have this test to:

    • Find the cause of abdominal pain
    • Find the cause of kidney infections
    • Diagnose a hernia
    • Diagnose and monitor tumors and cancers
    • Diagnose or treat ascites
    • Learn why there is swelling of an abdominal organ
    • Look for damage after an injury
    • Look for stones in the gallbladder or kidney
    • Look for the cause of abnormal blood tests such as liver function tests or kidney tests
    • Look for the cause of a fever

    The reason for the test will depend on your symptoms.

    Normal Results

    The organs examined appear normal.

    What Abnormal Results Mean

    The meaning of abnormal results depends on the organ being examined and the type of problem. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns.

    An abdominal ultrasound can indicate conditions such as:

    • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
    • Abscess
    • Appendicitis
    • Cholecystitis
    • Gallstones
    • Hydronephrosis
    • Kidney stones
    • Pancreatitis (inflammation in pancreas)
    • Spleen enlargement (splenomegaly)

    Risks

    There is noknown risk. You are not exposed toionizing radiation.

    References

    Cosgrove DO, Meire HB, Lim A, Eckersley RJ. Ultrasound: general principles. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, eds. Grainger & Allisonn's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 5th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone;2008:chap 3.

    Kim DH, Pickhardt PJ. Diagnostic imaging procedures in gastroenterology. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 135.

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      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Abdominal ultrasound

          Review Date: 11/9/2012

          Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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