Abdominal Ultrasound

Also known as: Sonography

An abdominal ultrasound, sometimes called an abdominal sonogram, is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of your internal organs. 

With the ultrasound, your doctor is able to assess abdominal blood flow through various vessels and the overall condition of some of your most vital organs, such as the liver, spleen, gallbladder and kidneys.

Each abdominal ultrasound, screening and sonogram is meant to give your doctors the ability to detect, diagnose and treat any condition that may afflict your abdominal region. These include:  

  • Blood clots 
  • Gallstones 
  • Kidney stones 
  • Abnormal liver function 
  • Liver cancer 
  • Tumors in the abdominal area 

Along with the standard abdominal ultrasound, we also screen for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) as part of our heart and vascular health screenings. The AAA screening is a noninvasive test similar to a standard abdominal ultrasound, but designed to detect weakening and swelling of the abdominal aorta, a section of the most vital artery in the human body.

Many locations also offer a transabdominal ultrasound, specifically designed to create images of the pancreas. Your doctor can use these pictures to determine the size, location and spreading of tumors in the pancreas, as well as pancreatitis.

During your abdominal ultrasound, your doctor will ask you to wear a hospital gown and lie on an exam table. Depending on the type of ultrasound or the organs targeted for imaging, you will lie either on your back or your side, with your abdomen (belly) exposed.

Because a sonogram uses sound waves to create images, a gel is gently rubbed on your skin to smooth it out and eliminate any air particles that may interfere with the results of the sonogram.

Once the gel has been applied, a small Doppler probe called a transducer is rubbed around the belly. The probe sends ultrasonic sound waves to different areas of your abdomen. These waves are then bounced back by different organs. Those reflected sound waves are taken by the sonogram machine and electronically rendered to produce live images of the internal organs as they function.  

The complete abdominal ultrasound takes no longer than 30 minutes and is pain free. Your sonographer is available throughout the entire process to answer questions and make sure that your screening experience is smooth and comfortable.

The abdominal ultrasound is risk-free. It is a noninvasive procedure that doesn’t require radiation to image your organs like an X-ray would.

The only possible complication involves pre-existing conditions that could potentially affect your ultrasound results. Certain health conditions, such as intestinal gas and severe obesity, can affect the way the sonogram machine interprets the sound waves it produces. These can alter abdominal ultrasound results. Be sure to consult your doctor if you suffer from conditions that can affect your screening.