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Abdominal Ultrasound

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Abdominal ultrasound is a common procedure that used to obtain images of the internal organs of the abdomen. This imaging procedure uses sound waves to create 2D images. There is no radiation involved in ultrasound and is thus a safe, easy and very useful diagnostic tool.

What is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a high-frequency sound wave. This sound wave cannot be heard by a human ear. However, these waves can travel through the body tissues without causing any harm. These waves give out the echoes that can be recorded and made into images as well as videos. This helps the doctors diagnose various diseases of the soft tissues.

An ultrasound is helpful for getting images of the internal body parts. However, it is frequently used to get images of the stomach, gall bladder, bile ducts, pancreas, spleen, kidney, liver, heart, inferior vena cava as well as the uterus and fetus. It also used to detect blockage in blood vessels. However, it is not useful in getting images of lung, bones as well as the intestines. This is because the air or gases in the lungs and intestines interferes in creating of a correct image and bones are too hard for these waves to penetrate.

The ultrasound waves are harmless, painless sound waves. One uses a probe or transducer on the body to pass the high-frequency sound waves. The images captured are real-time images, thus one can see what is happening at the moment inside a specific organ. It is a non-invasive procedure and therefore carried out on an outpatient basis.

Purpose of Abdominal Ultrasound

There are many uses of abdominal ultrasound. It helps in the evaluation and diagnosis of conditions affecting the:

  • Abdominal aorta (like abdominal aortic aneurysm)
  • Spleen (enlarged spleen)
  • Gallbladder (stones in gallbladder)
  • Bile ducts (presence of stones in bile ducts)
  • Liver (abnormal liver function)
  • Kidneys (kidney stones)
  • Pancreas (abnormal pancreatic function)

Abdominal ultrasound can also help in finding blockages that affect the blood flow, narrowing of blood vessels as well as the presence of any tumors within the abdominal cavity. It is also useful in diagnosis of appendicitis, cholecystitis, urinary retention.

In women, an ultrasound is very useful for observing the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and other reproductive organs. It is also helps in observing the growth of a fetus.

Procedure for Adbominal Ultrasound

The procedure for abdominal ultrasound is very simple. There is no radiation involved like in the X ray. The doctor might instruct the patient not to eat for about 8 hours before  the ultrasound depending on the organs to be observed.  In case of the gallbladder, spleen and pancreas, one may have to eat a fat-free meal the day before the test. One may have to drink plenty of water before undergoing an ultrasound.

The Procedure

One may have to change into a hospital gown for the test. Remove jewelry and any other valuables before you lie down on the table. Switch off your cell phones.

The ultrasound technician will ask you to lie down in a particular position. He will then apply lubricating jelly on your abdomen. The transducer will be positioned over the jelly and moved around to transmit the sound waves. The waves will echo whenever they bang against a dense tissue or organ. These echoes are captured by the computer and translated into images. One may have to shift positions to help get a clear view of the organs.

After the Procedure

The entire procedure takes 20-30 minutes. The patient can go home on his own as there is no sedation or minimally invasive surgery involved. One can start with their daily work almost immediately after an ultrasound.


The test result may come as Negative or Positive. All the aspects of the organs observed will be explained in detail. If the result is negative, it means there is no abnormality observed. If it is positive indicates presence of some disease, ailment or condition. Comments will be made by the ultrasound specialist regarding the overall condition of the organs. Based on this report, the doctor will confirm the diagnosis with the patient.

After the results the doctor may suggest medications or surgery based on the condition. This is a very simple procedure which is a very important diagnostic tool. It is one of the safest as there is no risk of radiation, infection or bleeding involved. Speak to your doctor regarding any specific instructions you should follow before you undergo an ultrasound.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 12, 2015

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