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Abdominal Ultrasound

What To Think About

  • Other tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, may be needed to follow up abnormal ultrasound results. To learn more, see the topic Computed Tomography (CT) Scan of the Body.
  • X-rays are not recommended during pregnancy because of the risk of damage to the fetus. Because ultrasound is safe during pregnancy, it generally is used instead of an abdominal X-ray if a pregnant woman's abdomen needs to be checked.
  • In rare cases, gallstones may not be found by ultrasound. Other imaging tests may be done if gallstones are suspected but not seen on the ultrasound.
  • Using abdominal ultrasound, a doctor can usually distinguish among a simple fluid-filled cyst, a solid tumor, or another type of mass that needs further evaluation. If a solid tumor is found, abdominal ultrasound cannot determine whether it is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). A biopsy may be needed if a tumor is found. Ultrasound may be used during the biopsy to help guide the placement of the needle.
  • Ultrasound is less expensive than other tests, such as a CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, that also can provide a picture of the abdominal organs. But for some problems, such as abdominal masses or an injury, a CT scan or MRI may be a more appropriate test. Also, these tests may be done if the abdominal ultrasound is normal but abdominal pain persists.
  • A pelvic ultrasound will be used to produce a picture of the lower abdominal (pelvic) organs and other structures inside the pelvis. To learn more, see the topic Pelvic Ultrasound.

Other Works Consulted

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerHoward Schaff, MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Last RevisedNovember 29, 2012
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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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