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Abdominal Ultrasound

Why It Is Done

Abdominal ultrasound is done to:

  • Find the cause of abdominal pain.
  • Find, measure, or monitor an aneurysm in the aorta. An aneurysm may cause a large, pulsing lump in the abdomen.
  • Check the size, shape, and position of the liver. An ultrasound may be done to evaluate jaundice and other problems of the liver, including liver masses, cirrhosis, fat deposits in the liver (called fatty liver), or abnormal liver function tests.
  • Detect gallstones, inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), 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 pancreatic tumor.
  • Look for blocked urine flow in a kidney. A kidney ultrasound may also be done to find out the size of the kidneys, detect kidney masses, detect fluid surrounding the kidneys, investigate causes for recurring urinary tract infections, or check the condition of transplanted kidneys.
  • Find out whether a mass in any of the abdominal organs (such as the liver) is a solid tumor or a simple fluid-filled cyst.
  • Guide the placement of a needle or other instrument during a biopsy.
  • Look for fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity (ascites). An ultrasound also may be done to guide the needle during a procedure to remove fluid from the abdominal cavity (paracentesis).

How To Prepare

Tell your doctor if you have had a barium enema or a series of upper GI (gastrointestinal) tests within the past 2 days. Barium that remains in the intestines can interfere with the ultrasound test.

Other preparations depend on the reason for the abdominal ultrasound test you are having.

  • For ultrasound of the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas, you may be asked to eat a fat-free meal on the evening before the test and then to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test.
  • For ultrasound of the kidneys, you may not need any special preparation. You may be asked to drink 4 to 6 glasses of liquid (usually juice or water) about an hour before the test to fill your bladder. You may be asked to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test to avoid gas buildup in the intestines. Gas could interfere with the evaluation of the kidneys, which lay behind the stomach and intestines.
  • For ultrasound of the aorta, you may need to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2012
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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