How It Is Done
The test is done by a radiologist. This is a doctor who has special training to perform and interpret imaging tests. Sometimes an ultrasound technologist (sonographer) will do the test. In that case, a radiologist will supervise. The test is done in an ultrasound room in a hospital or doctor's office.
You may need to take off your jewelry. You may also need to take off all or most of your clothes. It depends on which area is being examined. You will be given a cloth or paper to cover yourself 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 belly or back to help the sound waves work best. A small handheld device (transducer) is pressed against your belly.
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 test is being done. You may be asked to take a breath and hold it for several seconds during the test. This lets the person doing the test see organs and structures more clearly.
The test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.
After the test
You may be asked to wait until the radiologist has reviewed the images. He or she may want to take more views of some areas of your belly.
How It Feels
The gel may feel cold when it is put on your skin. But the gel may be warmed to body temperature first. You will feel light pressure from the transducer as it passes over your belly. Most people do not feel pain during the test. 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.
There are no known risks from having an abdominal ultrasound test.