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Abdominal ultrasound
Definition An imaging procedure of the internal organs of the abdomen, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas and kidneys. The blood vessels to some of these organs can also be evaluated with the use of Doppler techniques. The ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which reflect off body structures to create a picture. There is no ionizing radiation exposure with this test.
Alternative Names Ultrasound - abdomen; Abdominal sonogram
How the test is performed The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department. You will be lying down for the procedure. A clear, water-based conducting gel is applied to the skin over the area being examined to help with the transmission of the sound waves. The ultrasound transducer (a hand-held probe) is then moved over the abdomen. You may be asked to move to other positions to examine different areas. You may also be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time during the examination. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes.
How to prepare for the test Preparation for the procedure depends on the nature of the problem and your age. Usually, patients should have nothing by mouth (NPO) for several hours before the examination. Your health care provider will likely know how long you should be NPO. Infants and children: The physical and psychological preparation you can provide for this or any test or procedure depends on your child's age, interests, previous experience, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics as they correspond to your child's age:
  • Infant test or procedure preparation
  • (birth to 1 year)
  • Toddler test or procedure preparation
  • (1 to 3 years)
  • Preschooler test or procedure preparation
  • (3 to 6 years)
  • Schoolage test or procedure preparation
  • (6 to 12 years)
  • Adolescent test or procedure preparation
  • (12 to 18 years)
  • How the test will feel There is little discomfort. The conducting gel may feel slightly cold and wet.
    Why the test is performed There are many reasons for performing an abdominal ultrasound including looking for a cause of pain, for stones in the gallbladder or kidney, or for a cause for enlargement of an abdominal organ. The reason for the examination will depend on your symptoms.
    Normal Values The organs examined are normal in appearance.
    What abnormal results mean The significance of abnormal results will depend on the organ being examined and the nature of the problem. You should consult your health care provider with any questions and concerns.
    What the risks are There is no documented risk. No ionizing radiation exposure is involved.
    Special considerations 

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