Diseases & Conditions

Abdominal Ultrasonography - Abdominal Ultrasound


Overview & Description

Abdominal ultrasound is a technique that uses high-frequency sound waves, or ultrasounds, to examine soft tissues such as the abdominal organs. This test can provide information about the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and urinary bladder. It can detect some abdominal masses. An abdominal ultrasound can also be used to view blood flow to the abdominal organs.

Who is a candidate for the test?

An abdominal ultrasound may be done for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • to determine the cause of an enlarged organ
  • to determine the source of bleeding
  • to identify abnormalities in a woman's ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus
  • to identify causes for vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • to locate the source of abdominal distress
  • to look for stones in organs, such as the gallbladder or kidney
  • In some cases, an abdominal ultrasound is used to diagnose or monitor a woman's pregnancy. This procedure is known as a pregnancy ultrasound.

    How is the test performed?

    A liquid gel is applied to the person's abdomen to help transmit sounds. A transducer, which is like a microphone, is placed on the abdomen. The transducer is connected to a computer that converts the signals into images. A Doppler ultrasound may also be used to check movement in organs, such as blood flowing through blood vessels.


    Preparation & Expectations

    What is involved in preparation for the test?

    Depending on the reason for the abdominal ultrasound, some preparation may be required. The individual may be told to avoid eating for several hours before the test. He or she may be asked to drink liquid to ensure that the bladder is full. The healthcare provider should be asked for specific instructions.


    Results and Values

    What do the test results mean?

    Abnormal results, such as a mass or stones, may need further testing or surgery. The healthcare provider will discuss results with the individual.


    Attribution

    Author:Eva Martin, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Ballenberg, Sally, BS
    Edit Date:03/30/01
    Reviewer:Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed:08/06/01