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Diagnostics & Testing

Abdominal/Renal Ultrasound

What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound (also known as sonography or ultrasonography) is a diagnostic procedure that transmits high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, through body tissues. The echoes are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images of the internal structures of the body.

Ultrasound images help in the diagnosis of a wide range of diseases and conditions. Ultrasound is used to create images of soft tissue structures, such as the gall bladder, liver, heart, kidney, female reproductive organs -- and even of fetuses still in the womb. Ultrasound can also detect blockages in the blood vessels.

Ultrasound may be used with other diagnostic procedures or by itself. Studies have shown that ultrasound is not hazardous. There are no harmful side effects. In addition, ultrasound does not use radiation, as x-ray tests do.

Before the test

The preparation for this test will depend on the type of ultrasound procedure your doctor has ordered. Some preparations include drinking a quart of water before the test to obtain better images. Other preparations may include eating a fat-free dinner the night before the test, or possibly fasting. The doctor, nurse, or receptionist will give you complete instructions prior to the exam.

What is an abdominal ultrasound?

A right upper quadrant ultrasound examines the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. The complete abdominal ultrasound includes the organs listed previously, but also looks at the kidneys, spleen, inferior vena cava, aorta, and bladder.

On the day of the test

You will be asked to not eat or drink anything 8 hours before the exam. However, you may still take your medicine with sips of water.

Your ultrasound test will be performed by a registered, specially trained, technologist and interpreted by a board-certified radiologist.

During the test

You will lie on a padded examining table. A warm, water-soluble gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined. The gel does not harm your skin or stain your clothes. A probe is gently applied against the skin. You may be asked to hold your breath several times or roll on your side.

The ultrasound will take about 30 to 40 minutes to complete.

After the test

The results of your ultrasound are usually available within 24 hours after your test, Monday through Friday.

The doctor who ordered the test will discuss the test results with you.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/22/2015...#4994