Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound is a painless imaging test that is used to examine internal organs and provide a real-time image. An abdominal ultrasound can help to diagnose various conditions and ascertain the damage caused by an illness.

Unlike X-ray which uses radiation, ultrasound uses soundwaves to create images of your internal organs. An ultrasound scan can be recommended for problems such as appendix, liver, bladder, intestines, kidney, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.

Reasons for Performing an Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound is carried out to diagnose some diseases and condition of the abdomen. Since the procedure is usually non-invasive, it is safe and allows doctors to carry out diagnosis easily.

A patient may be asked to perform an abdominal ultrasound scan if other tests failed to diagnose the patient’s condition. Some of these abdominal conditions include;

  1. Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix
  2. Tumour or Cyst: An abnormal growth of tissues or cells that may cause abdominal swelling, bloating and pain, weight loss, fever, and a lump in the abdomen.
  3. Ascites: When fluid is accumulated or buildup in the abdomen. This can result in increased weight, discomfort, increase in abdominal size and its most common causes include liver scarring.
  4. Abdominal injury: When an organ ruptures or when there is an injured organ.
  5. Hernia: This occurs when an organ bulge or protrude through an opening in the wall of the muscle/tissue.
  6. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA): Swelling in the largest artery that can rupture.
  7. Pyloric Stenosis: A narrowing of the opening of the lower portion of the stomach that blocks food from the intestines. This condition is most common in infants.
  8. Gallstone: Hard deposits of bile formed in the gallbladder. They can cause discomfort and abdominal pain.
  9. Abdominal Swelling/Pain: Can be caused by various conditions, including abdominal abscess, bloating, tumour.
  10. Kidney Stone: Hardened crystalline deposits made of certain minerals that are formed in the kidney.

Who Performs an Abdominal Ultrasound

An ultrasound is performed by a radiologic technologist who is a professional trained in medical imaging. A diagnostic radiologist or radiologist is a medical professional who evaluates ultrasound images. They specialize in interpreting medical imaging tests.

Procedures of an Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound is performed in a hospital. The procedure of an abdominal ultrasound takes less than 30mins generally. Steps include;

  1. Lying down on a table in the ultrasound room which is usually dark, to enable easy reading of the ultrasound images on the ultrasound screen.
  2. A special water-based gel will be rubbed on your abdomen to reduce friction and help the transducer slide across your skin. It is the transducer that sends and receives soundwaves to produce the image on the ultrasound screen.
  3. The technologist will move the transducer back and forth on your belly while looking at the screen.
  4. The technologist will occasionally press the transducer down. While he’s doing this, you might be asked to hold your breath or change your position for a short while. This will enable the technologist to have clear imaging that will help diagnose your condition.
  5. The water-based gel is then wiped off from your skin.
  6. You may be asked to wait for a short while. Then the diagnostic radiologist will check if the imaging was complete.
  7. After an imaging test, the patient is usually asked to go home.

Preparation for an Abdominal Ultrasound

To obtain the most accurate result of an imaging test, the steps you take in preparation for the ultrasound scan are very important. You can prepare by doing the following

  1. Answering all questions that pertain to your medical history. This includes drugs habits, hospital treatments as well as over-the-counter(OTC) prescriptions and herbal treatments.
  2. Adhering to the instructions given to you by the technologist before the ultrasound. These instructions may include drinking a lot of water and holding your urine when your bladder is full or not eating of any foods or certain foods and not drinking of beverages for up to 8-12 hours before the ultrasound.

Any Possible Risks?

An ultrasound is not like an X-ray which uses radiation. An ultrasound uses soundwaves and has no known complications. An abdominal ultrasound is generally painless.

When Should you call the Doctor?

After an abdominal ultrasound, you may need to keep follow-up appointments. And if you notice any new or unusual symptoms then you need to contact your doctor immediately.
Symptoms such as severe abdominal pain may be a sign that the condition is getting worse.
You can also call your doctor if the result of your ultrasound is been delayed.


Abdominal Ultrasound is usually used to get quicker detailed results and it has no side effects. Following the doctor’s advice on how to prepare for the procedure will help reduce the chances of errors or false results.