Editorial Staff and Contributors
An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of structures in the body. A
is a special type of ultrasound that can show blood flow in the vessels.
An ultrasound is used to show details of structures in the abdomen. It can show features like the size and movement of organs, cysts or growths, or fluid collections. An ultrasound of the abdomen is most often done to:
In most cases, there are no complications with this test.
A physical exam may be done. Your bodily fluids may also be tested. This can be done with blood or urine tests.
In some cases, your doctor may instruct you to:
You will lie on a table. A gel will be placed over the area that will be checked. The gel helps the sound waves travel from a wand to your body.
The ultrasound machine has a hand-held wand. The wand is pushed against your skin where the gel has been applied. The wand sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the wand. The computer can convert echoes into images on a screen. The images on the screen are examined by your doctor. A photograph of them may be taken.
You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.
The gel will be cleaned off your abdomen. You will be able to leave after the test is done. You will be able to return to your normal activities.
No. But, if you have a full bladder during the test, you may feel uncomfortable.
The images are looked at by doctors. A report will be given to your doctor. Based on the results, you and your doctor will talk about more tests and treatment options.
After the test, call your doctor if the symptoms you had before the test become worse.
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Association for Medical Ultrasound
Radiological Society of North America
Radiology Consultants Associated
ACR practice guideline for performing and interpreting diagnostic ultrasound examinations. American College of Radiology website. Available at:
Updated 2011. Accessed March 5, 2013.
General ultrasound imaging. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=genus. Updated 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.
Real-time ultrasound in abdominal examinations.
Radiology. 1979 Dec;133(3 Pt1):825.
Ultrasound—abdomen. Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at:
http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=abdominus. Updated February 12, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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