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
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.