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Abdominal Ultrasound

Why It Is Done

Abdominal ultrasound is done to:

  • Find the cause of belly pain.
  • Find, measure, or monitor an aneurysm in the aorta. An aneurysm may cause a large, pulsing lump in the belly.
  • Check the size, shape, and position of the liver. It may also check for problems of the liver. These include jaundice, cirrhosis camera.gif, or fatty liver. This test may be done to follow up after liver function tests.
  • Look for gallstones, inflammation of the gallbladder, or blocked bile ducts.
  • Learn the size of an enlarged spleen and look for damage or disease.
  • Find problems with the pancreas, such as a tumor.
  • Look for blocked urine flow in a kidney. If needed, a kidney ultrasound can find out the size of the kidneys, detect a mass, or detect fluid surrounding the kidneys. It can also look for causes of bladder infections that won't go away. Or it can check how the kidneys are doing after a transplant.
  • Find out if a mass in a belly organ is a solid tumor or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • Guide the placement of a needle or other tool during a biopsy.
  • Look for fluid buildup in the belly cavity. This problem is called ascites. An ultrasound also may be done to guide the needle during a paracentesis. This is a procedure to remove fluid from the belly cavity.

How To Prepare

Tell your doctor if you have had a barium enema or upper GI (gastrointestinal) tests within the past 2 days. Barium that stays in the intestines can affect the results of the ultrasound.

You may need to prepare in other ways too. It depends on what test you are having. For example:

  • If you are having your liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas checked, you may need to eat a fat-free meal on the evening before the test. Then you may need to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test.
  • For a test of the kidneys, you may be asked to drink 4 to 6 glasses of liquid about an hour before the test. This is to fill your bladder. You may need to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test to avoid gas buildup in the intestines. Gas could affect the results of the kidney ultrasound.
  • If you are having your aorta checked, you may need to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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