What is an abdominal ultrasound? 

Abdominal ultrasound is used to check the major organs in the abdominal cavity. These organs include the gallbladder, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and spleen. Ultrasounds are safe and painless. 

Why is an abdominal ultrasound performed? 

  • Enlarged organ (such as the liver or spleen) 
  • Fluid in the abdomen 
  • Gallstone 
  • Nausea/vomiting 
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Urinary blockage  
  • Kidney stone 
  • Tumors 


What are the risks of an abdominal ultrasound? 

An abdominal ultrasound has no risks. Unlike X-ray or CT scan, ultrasounds use no radiation. 

How do I prepare for the test? 

You usually must fast for at least 6 hours before your ultrasound because undigested food in the stomach can block the sound waves, making it difficult for the technologist to get a clear picture. 

If you are having an ultrasound of your gallbladder, liver, pancreas you may be instructed to eat a fat-free meal the day before your test. 

How is the test performed? 

You will lie down on a table with your abdomen exposed. The ultrasound sonographer will put a special lubricating jelly on your abdomen. The gel prevents air pockets from forming between the skin and the ultrasound transducer. The transducer sends high frequency sound waves through your body.  

If you are having pain in your abdomen, you may feel slight discomfort during the ultrasound. Make sure to let your technologist know right away if the pain becomes severe. 

Certain factors or conditions may interfere with the results of an ultrasound, including: 

  • severe obesity 
  • food inside the stomach 
  • excess intestinal gas 

The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes. 


What happens after the test? 

A radiologist will interpret your ultrasound images. Your doctor will discuss the results with you.