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Abdominal Ultrasound

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.

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 (or back) to improve the quality of the sound waves. A small handheld unit called a transducer is pressed against your abdomen.

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 stomach.

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.

After the test

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.

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.

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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