Some reasons your doctor may have ordered your abdominal ultrasound:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Your doctor felt a lump or mass.
  • Abnormal laboratory test result.

Common diseases the radiologist/sonologist might discover:

  • Gallstones.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (ballooning of aorta).
  • Dilated bile ducts.
  • Enlarged pancreas or pancreatitis.
  • Tumor or mass in liver.
  • Enlarged spleen or liver.

How do you prepare for an abdominal ultrasound examination?

  • Often, you will be told to take nothing by mouth past midnight (except a small amount of water for medications.) This prevents you from swallowing air or increasing bowel activity, both of which may interfere with the exam. Any food could cause your gallbladder to contract, making it difficult to see stones or other abnormalities. (Ask the person who schedules your ultrasound test to see if you need to follow these or any other instructions.)

What happens in the ultrasound laboratory?

  • You will probably change into a patient gown to prevent the ultrasound gel from staining your clothes.
  • You will meet your sonographer, the person that will perform most of your scan. This trained technologist is an expert in ultrasound scanning. Most have been certified by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS).
  • You will lie comfortably on an examination table. You may be asked to roll to either side.
  • The sonographer will squirt a special pre-warmed gel onto your skin that helps the sound penetrate into your body. This gel is harmless and easily wipes off after your examination.
  • The transducer, or ultrasound scan head, emits a very high frequency sound. The sound waves bounce off structures inside your body and are detected by the same ultrasound transducer. The ultrasound machine is a sophisticated computer that converts these reflected sound waves into images that are recorded by the sonographer and interpreted by the radiologist.
  • Often, before you leave the examination room, the radiologist will come in to meet you and may also scan you in order to answer questions not fully answered by the initial ultrasound images.