Information for patients coming for Abdominal ultrasound examination

An ultrasound examination allows us to obtain pictures of the inside of the body using high frequency sound waves rather than x-rays. It is a very safe technique which uses echoes to produce a picture on a TV monitor.

If the examination is to look at your liver, gallbladder or pancreas then you should not eat for at least 8 hours prior to the test and drink only clear fluids preferably still water.

If we are looking at the kidneys and bladder it is best to drink at least 1 pint of water about 1 hour before the test and try not to go to the toilet during this time.

The test itself involves putting some clear gel on the skin and moving a probe over the area of interest to allow visualization of the organs in the abdomen. You may be asked to move into different positions to improve the views we get and you will probably be asked to hold your breath from time to time.

The examination will usually take 10-20 minutes. You will be provided with a report of the investigation to take away with you after the examination is complete.


Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (x-ray). Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is usually a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

An abdominal ultrasound produces a picture of the organs and other structures in the upper abdomen.

Abdominal ultrasound imaging is performed to evaluate the:

  • kidneys
  • liver
  • gallbladder
  • pancreas
  • spleen
  • abdominal aorta and other blood vessels of the abdomen

Ultrasound is used to help diagnose a variety of conditions, such as:

  • abdominal pains
  • inflamed appendix
  • enlarged abdominal organ
  • stones in the gallbladder or kidney
  • an aneurysm in the aorta

Doppler ultrasound images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

  • blockages to blood flow (such as clots)
  • narrowing of vessels (which may be caused by plaque)
  • tumors and congenital malformation

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You will need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined.

You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.

Tell your doctor if you have had a barium enema or a series of upper GI (gastrointestinal) tests within the past two days. Barium that remains in the intestines can interfere with the ultrasound test.

Other preparations depend on the type of ultrasound you are having.

  • For a study of the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas, you may be asked to eat a fat-free meal on the evening before the test and then to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test.
  • For ultrasound of the kidneys, you may be asked to drink four to six glasses of liquid about an hour before the test to fill your bladder. You may be asked to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test to avoid gas buildup in the intestines.

For ultrasound of the aorta, you may need to avoid eating for 8 to 12 hours before the test.

Various diagnostic techniques are used for diagnosing abdominal problems. Amongst these are abdominal ultrasound, endoscopy, x-ray and CT scanning.

Abdominal ultrasound is usually the first line method for examining the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, pancreas, spleen and blood vessels of the abdomen. It can also show the blood flow to these organs and the blood flow of the main blood vessels in the abdomen.

Abdominal pain is the most common indication for an abdominal ultrasound. However, your doctor may also refer you because you are suffering from other symptoms or he maybe concerned about his examination findings or blood tests.

Amongst other conditions, abdominal ultrasound can detect stones in the gall bladder and kidneys, cysts and some tumors. It can also detect an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is a widening of the aortic artery and is a potentially fatal condition for which early medical intervention can be life saving.

Ultrasound maybe one of many investigations you require and you should consult your doctor to ensure that any other necessary investigations are arranged.