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.
preparations depend on the reason for the abdominal ultrasound test you are
- 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
- 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.
How It Is Done
This test is done by a doctor who
specializes in performing and interpreting imaging tests (radiologist) or
by an ultrasound technologist (sonographer) who is supervised by a radiologist.
It is done in an ultrasound room in a hospital or doctor's office.
You will need to take off any jewelry that might interfere with the
ultrasound scan. You will need to take off all or most of your clothes,
depending on which area is examined (you may be allowed to keep on your
underwear if it does not interfere with the test). You will be given a cloth or
paper covering to use during the test.
You will lie on your back
(or on your side) on a padded exam table. Warmed gel will be spread on your
abdomen to improve the quality of the sound waves. A small handheld unit
called a transducer is pressed against your abdomen and moved back and forth
over it. A picture of the organs and blood vessels can be seen on a video
You may be asked to change positions so more scans can
be done. For a kidney ultrasound, you may be asked to lie on your
You need to lie very still while the ultrasound scan is
being done. You may be asked to take a breath and hold it for several seconds
during the scanning. This lets the sonographer see organs and structures, such
as the bile ducts, more clearly because they are not moving. Holding your
breath also temporarily pushes the liver and spleen lower into the belly so
they are not hidden by the lower ribs, which makes it harder for the
sonographer to see them clearly.
Abdominal ultrasound usually
takes 30 to 60 minutes. You may be asked to wait until the radiologist has
reviewed the information. The radiologist may want to do more ultrasound views
of some areas of your abdomen.