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Abdominal Ultrasound

How It Feels

The gel may feel cold when it is put on your skin unless it is first warmed to body temperature. You will feel light pressure from the transducer as it passes over your abdomen. The ultrasound usually is not uncomfortable. But if the test is being done to check damage from a recent injury, the slight pressure of the transducer may be somewhat painful. You will not hear or feel the sound waves.

Risks

There are no known risks from having an abdominal ultrasound test.

Results

An abdominal ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to produce a picture of the organs and other structures in the abdomen.

Abdominal ultrasound

Normal:

The size and shape of the abdominal organs appear normal. The liver, spleen, and pancreas appear normal in size and texture. No abnormal growths are seen. No fluid is found in the abdomen.

The diameter of the aorta is normal, and no aneurysms are seen.

The thickness of the gallbladder wall is normal. The size of the bile ducts between the gallbladder and the small intestine is normal. No gallstones are seen.

The kidneys appear as sharply outlined bean-shaped organs. No kidney stones are seen. No blockage to the system draining the kidneys is present.

Abnormal:

An organ may appear abnormal because of inflammation, infection, or other diseases. An organ may be smaller than normal because of an old injury or past inflammation. An organ may be pushed out of its normal location because of an abnormal growth pressing against it. An abnormal growth (such as a tumor) may be seen in an organ. Fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites) may be seen.

The aorta is enlarged, or an aneurysm is seen.

The liver may appear abnormal, which may point to liver disease (such as cirrhosis or cancer).

The walls of the gallbladder may be thickened, or fluid may be present around the gallbladder, which may point to inflammation. The bile ducts may be enlarged because of blockage (from a gallstone or an abnormal growth in the pancreas). Gallstones may be seen inside the gallbladder.

The kidneys or the tubes that drain the kidneys (ureters) may be enlarged because of urine that is not draining properly. Kidney stones are seen within the kidneys (not all stones can be seen with ultrasound).

An area of infection (abscess) or a fluid-filled cyst may appear as a round, hollow structure inside an organ. The spleen may be ruptured (if an injury to the abdomen has occurred).

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Stool, air (or other gas), or contrast material (such as barium) in the stomach or intestines.
  • Not being able to remain still during the test.
  • Extreme obesity.
  • Having an open or bandaged wound in the area being viewed.

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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