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Diagnostic Ultrasound of the Abdomen
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Diagnostic Ultrasound of the Abdomen Overview

Written by FoundHealth.

In case of emergency, call 911.


An ultrasound examines organs or tissue inside the body. Sound waves are used to make an image. If a Doppler ultrasound is done, the doctor can see blood flow in the vessels.

Abdominal Ultrasound
Abdominal Ultrasound
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to test

Your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood or urine tests

In some cases, your doctor may instruct you to:

  • Fast for 8-12 hours before the test. This will decrease the amount of gas in your intestines and make your organs easier to see.
  • Have a full bladder before the test. You may need to drink six or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.

Description of the Test

You will lie on a table. Your doctor will put gel on your stomach. The gel helps the sound waves travel between the machine and your body.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel has been applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted into images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. He may also make a photograph of them.

You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.

After Test

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.

How Long Will It Take?

30 minutes

Will It Hurt?

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.



Association for Medical Ultrasound



Health Canada

Radiology for Patients


ACR practice guideline for performing and interpreting diagnostic ultrasound examinations. American College of Radiology website. Available at: . Accessed July 28, 2008.

Real-time ultrasound in abdominal examinations. Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: . Accessed July 28, 2008.



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