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What is Abdominal ultrasound? 

An abdominal ultrasound is an imaging test that produces images of the internal structures of your abdomen including appendix, liver, gall bladder, intestine, pancreas, spleen, urinary bladder and kidney. This test is used to diagnose health conditions in any of these organs.

Ultrasound, also known as sonography, is a non-invasive method that does not use ionizing radiation as in an x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan. Instead, it uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the examined area. These sound waves are passed into the examined area with the help of a gel and a small probe called a transducer. These sound waves hit your body tissues and bounce back to the probe. The probe then passes on the information to an attached computer that produces black and white images of the organs.

  1. Who cannot have an Abdominal Ultrasound?
  2. Why is an Abdominal Ultrasound done?
  3. How should I prepare for an Abdominal Ultrasound?
  4. What is the procedure for an Abdominal Ultrasound?
  5. How will an Abdominal Ultrasound feel like?
  6. What do the results of an Abdominal Ultrasound show?
  7. What are the risks and benefits of an Abdominal Ultrasound?
  8. What happens after an Abdominal Ultrasound?
  9. What are the other tests that can be done with an Abdominal Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a safe procedure with no contraindications.

Your healthcare practitioner may order this test in the following conditions:

A whole abdomen ultrasound is also used to check the growth and development of the baby inside the womb during pregnancy. Sometimes, an ultrasound procedure is used to ensure proper placement of needles (for a biopsy) or catheters.

Your healthcare practitioner may advise you to wear loose-fitting clothes or you may have to wear a hospital gown for the test.

The preparation for the test depends on the area to be examined.

If an ultrasound of the kidney is required, you may be advised to skip food for nearly eight to 12 hours prior to the test. This is mainly done to prevent the build-up of gas in intestines, which may affect the results of the test. Also, your doctor may instruct you to drink four to six glasses of liquid at least an hour before the ultrasound. It will fill your bladder and help in obtaining better images. 

For an ultrasound of the liver, spleen, gall bladder and pancreas, fasting of eight to 12 hours is required. It is also advisable to avoid fatty meal on the evening before the test.

The following is the procedure for a whole abdomen ultrasound:

  • You will be asked to lie on an examination table. 
  • A technician (sonographer) will first rub a clear, water-based gel on your abdomen. 
  • He/she will then move the transducer back and forth over the area to be examined. 
  • You’ll be able to see the images of your organs on a computer screen attached to the probe. The technician or doctor may take multiple images of the area to be examined.
  • After the scan, he/she will wipe off the gel from your abdomen.

It will not take more than 30 minutes for scanning and imaging.

An ultrasound scan is not painful. However, if there is tenderness on the area that is being examined, you may feel slight pain or pressure from the transducer. Also, the gel may feel wet and cold.

The following conditions may be diagnosed using a whole abdomen ultrasound:

 The benefits of the ultrasound test are as follows:

  • It is non-invasive 
  • It does not use radiation and is hence a comparatively safe imaging procedure 
  • It gives clear images of soft tissues that may not be observed in x-ray 

An ultrasound possesses no known risk to anybody.

You can resume your usual activities right after the test.

There is no specific test that your doctor may ask you to get after a whole abdomen ultrasound. Any additional test would depend on the condition to be diagnosed. For example, the tests that may be performed for pancreatitis are as follows:

  • Blood/stool/urine test
  • CT scan of abdomen
  • MRI
  • Radionucleotide scan
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
  • Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography
  • Stool elastase test

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. Nemours Children’s Health System [Internet]. Jacksonville (FL): The Nemours Foundation; c2017; Ultrasound: Abdomen
  2. Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) [internet]. Oak Brook. Illinois. USA; Ultrasound - Abdomen
  3. MYCourses: Harvard medical school [Internet]. Harvard University. Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Ultrasound
  4. Kim DH, Pickhardt PJ. Diagnostic imaging procedures in gastroenterology. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 133.
  5. Chen L. Abdominal ultrasound imaging. In: Sahani DV, Samir AE, eds. Abdominal Imaging. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017: chap 3.
  6. Wilson SR. The gastrointestinal tract. In: Rumack CM, Levine D, eds. Diagnostic Ultrasound. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 8.
  7. Cosgrove DO, Eckersley RJ, Harvey CJ, Lim A. Ultrasound. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:chap 3.
  8. Runyon BA. Ascites and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 93.
  9. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [internet]: US Department of Health and Human Services; Cirrhosis
  10. Fairman RM, Wang GJ. Abdominal aortic aneurysms; endovascular treatment. In: Cronenwett JL, Johnston KW, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 132.
  11. Braverman AC. Diseases of the aorta. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 57.
  12. LeFevre ML; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(4):281–290. PMID: 24957320.
  13. Colwell CB, Fox CJ. Abdominal aortic aneurysm. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 76.
  14. Theise ND. Liver and gallbladder. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 18.
  15. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2018. Chronic Pancreatitis
  16. Tenner S, Baillie J, DeWitt J, Vege SS. American College of Gastroenterology Guideline: Management of Acute Pancreatitis. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2013 Sep; 108(9): 1400-1415.
  17. Crockett Seth D., et al. American Gastroenterological Association Institute Guideline on Initial Management of Acute Pancreatitis. American Gastroenterological Association Institute Clinical Guidelines Committee. 2018 March; 154(4): 1096-1101.
  18. Merck Manual Consumer Version [Internet]. Kenilworth (NJ): Merck & Co. Inc.; c2018. Acute Pancreatitis
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