Abdominal ultrasound - Mayo Clinic (2023)


Abdominal ultrasound of an abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal ultrasound - Mayo Clinic (1)

Abdominal ultrasound of an abdominal aortic aneurysm

The enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta is an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An ultrasound image of an abdominal aortic aneurysm is shown in the upper right corner. Ultrasound imaging is often used to diagnose abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal ultrasound - Mayo Clinic (2)

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when a lower portion of the body's main artery (aorta) becomes weakened and bulges.

(Video) How I do it: Ultrasound of the Abdomen

An abdominal ultrasound is a medical imaging test that uses sound waves to see inside the belly (abdomen) area. It's the preferred screening test for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. However, the test may be used to diagnose or rule out many other health conditions.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm, or aortic aneurysm, is an enlarged area in the lower part of the body's main artery (aorta). Health care providers recommend an abdominal ultrasound to screen for an aortic aneurysm in men ages 65 to 75 who smoke or used to smoke. Such screening isn't recommended for people who've never smoked. But it may be done if you have symptoms or a family history of an aortic aneurysm.

Why it's done

An abdominal ultrasound is done to see the blood vessels and organs in the belly area. Your health care provider may recommend this test if you have a condition affecting any of these body areas:

  • Blood vessels in the abdomen
  • Gallbladder
  • Intestines
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen

For example, an abdominal ultrasound can help determine the cause of stomach pain or bloating. It can help check for kidney stones, liver disease, tumors and many other conditions. Your provider may recommend this test if you're at risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Screening for aortic aneurysms

An abdominal ultrasound is the most common test to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysms. Screening means looking for the condition in people without symptoms. Early diagnosis helps you and your provider take steps to manage and treat the aneurysm. If an aortic aneurysm ruptures, the bleeding can quickly lead to death.

A one-time abdominal aortic ultrasound screening is recommended for men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetimes.

Screening is also recommended for men age 60 and older who have or had a parent or sibling with aortic aneurysm. It's otherwise unclear if men who have never smoked may benefit from such screening.

Routine ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms isn't recommended for women.


There are no known risks. Abdominal ultrasound is a safe, painless procedure. However, you may have some temporary discomfort if the care provider presses on an area that is sore or tender.

How you prepare

Your health care provider or radiology department will provide specific instructions.

You usually need to avoid food and drinks for 8 to 12 hours before an abdominal ultrasound. This is called fasting. Fasting helps prevent gas buildup in the belly area, which could affect the results.

Ask your provider if it's OK to drink water before the test. Don't stop taking any medications unless your provider tells you to do so.

What you can expect

Before the procedure

Before the abdominal ultrasound, you may be asked to:

  • Change into a hospital gown
  • Remove any jewelry
  • Store valuables in a locker near the exam room

During the procedure

For an abdominal ultrasound, you lie on your back on an examination table. A trained care provider (sonographer) applies a special gel to your belly area. The gel works with the ultrasound device to provide better images.

The provider gently presses the device against the belly, moving it back and forth. The device sends signals to a computer. The computer creates images that show how blood flows through the structures in the belly area.

(Video) US Abdomen Complete Protocol

An abdominal ultrasound exam takes about 30 minutes to complete.

After the procedure

You should be able to return to regular activities immediately after an abdominal ultrasound.


After an abdominal ultrasound, your health care provider shares the results with you at a follow-up visit. Sometimes, the care provider's office calls with the results.

If the ultrasound test didn't show an aneurysm, you usually don't need any additional screenings to rule out an abdominal aneurysm. If the ultrasound was meant to rule other health concerns, you may still need additional studies.

If the test shows an aortic aneurysm or other health concern, you and your care provider will discuss a treatment plan. Treatment for an abdominal aortic aneurysm may include regular health checkups (watchful waiting) or surgery.

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Why would you be sent for an abdominal ultrasound? ›

Doctors order an abdominal ultrasound when they're concerned about symptoms such as belly pain, repeated vomiting, abnormal liver or kidney function tests, or a swollen belly. The tests can show them the size of the abdominal organs and help them check for injuries to or diseases of the organs.

What is included in abdominal ultrasound? ›

An abdominal ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure used to assess the organs and structures within the abdomen. This includes the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, bile ducts, spleen, and abdominal aorta. Ultrasound technology allows quick visualization of the abdominal organs and structures from outside the body.

Can abdominal ultrasound detect bowel problems? ›

Over the past few years, thanks to technological progress in ultrasonography, followed by increasing experience of physicians, intestinal ultrasound has become an important diagnostic tool in the detection of bowel diseases.

Do you need a full bladder for an abdominal ultrasound? ›

Why You Shouldn't Empty Your Bladder When Preparing for an Ultrasound. The answer is simple: one of the most common areas on the body to be examined through an ultrasound scan is the abdomen. Depending on the internal structure that is to be scanned, the bladder may need to be full for better visualization.

What diseases can an abdominal ultrasound detect? ›

Providers use abdominal ultrasound tests to detect:
  • Bladder stones.
  • Enlarged spleen.
  • Gallstones.
  • Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation).
  • Pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas).
  • Cancer, such as stomach cancer or pancreatic cancer.
  • Fatty liver disease.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (a bulge in the aorta wall in your midsection).
Oct 28, 2020

Can abdominal ultrasound detect tumors? ›

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. They can show up changes, including abnormal growths. You might have one to diagnose a cancer or find out if it has spread.

Can you drink water before ultrasound abdomen? ›

If you eat anything within 6 hours of your exam, your gallbladder may not look normal in the ultrasound images. During your fast, you may drink clear liquids such as black coffee, tea, and water. Do not drink anything that contains fat or sugar.

Do you have to undress for an abdominal ultrasound? ›

Abdominal ultrasounds are performed on people who have unexplained abdominal pain or have had abdominal injuries. When you arrive for your ultrasound, you will be asked to undress and put on a light gown.

Can you see colon polyps on an ultrasound? ›

Although ultrasound is clearly not one of the widely accepted screening techniques, this non-invasive and radiation-free modality is also capable of detecting colonic polyps, both benign and malignant. Such colon lesions may be encountered when not expected, usually during general abdominal sonography.

Can an ultrasound show colon inflammation? ›

Ultrasound appears to be accurate in distinguishing normal from inflamed colon, but ultrasound findings alone should not be used to determine the cause of bowel inflammation.

Does diverticulitis show up on an ultrasound? ›

Studies in the hands of expert bowel sonographers show ultrasound has a sensitivity and specificity of >80% for the diagnosis of diverticulitis.

How long does an abdominal ultrasound take? ›

The test will take about 30 minutes. You may be asked to wait until the radiologist has reviewed the scan. He or she may want to do more ultrasound views of some areas of your belly.

What does red mean on an abdominal ultrasound? ›

What does red or blue mean on an ultrasound? Red and blue colors represent the movement of the blood. Blue represents blood flow away from the probe, while red represents the blood flowing towards the probe.

How long does it take to get results from an ultrasound? ›

Generally speaking, most ultrasounds will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete, and in most cases, you are told the results as soon as you finish the scan, but the actual image may need to be analyzed by the radiologist. The written report will be available soon after the test.

What Cannot be detected in ultrasound? ›

Ultrasound images are not as detailed as those from CT or MRI scans. Ultrasound cannot tell whether a tumor is cancer. Its use is also limited in some parts of the body because the sound waves can't go through air (such as in the lungs) or through bone.

Can abdominal ultrasound detect pancreatitis? ›

The ultrasound probe uses sound waves to produce images of the body that appear on a computer monitor. Your doctor can detect gallstones or signs of chronic pancreatitis, such as damage to the pancreatic tissue, with this test.

Does an abdominal ultrasound show liver damage? ›

Ultrasound is an excellent front-line diagnostic tool for evaluating the liver. It can help assess the presence of liver disease (such as fatty liver), detect liver lesions, and much more.

Can an ultrasound tell if something is cancerous? ›

Because sound waves echo differently from fluid-filled cysts and solid masses, an ultrasound can reveal tumors that may be cancerous. However, further testing will be necessary before a cancer diagnosis can be confirmed.

What does a cancerous tumor look like in ultrasound? ›

Cancerous tissue also shows up as white on a mammogram. Therefore it is sometimes hard to distinguish dense tissue from cancerous tissue. On an ultrasound cancerous tissue shows up black and dense tissue is still white, therefore cancers are easier to distinguish.

How do you know if you have a tumor in your abdomen? ›

You'll most likely see or feel a lump in your lower abdomen near your groin and feel pain when coughing, bending, or lifting. In some cases, there are no symptoms until the condition gets worse.

How much water should I drink before an abdominal ultrasound? ›

Abdominal and pelvic ultrasound

You must have a full bladder when you arrive at the clinic. Make sure you drink four eight-ounce glasses (960 ml total) of water or juice 75 minutes before the exam and don't urinate. Do not chew gum, as this will make you swallow air, which may affect the quality of the images.

Can you brush your teeth before an abdominal ultrasound? ›

Ultrasound Abdomen / Ultrasound Aorta / Ultrasound Appendix / Ultrasound Kidney Renal Artery: Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure – including chewing gum (which causes gas bubbles that will “cloud” your exam). You may brush your teeth.

What should I eat the night before an abdominal ultrasound? ›

You may not eat or drink anything for 8 to 10 hours before the test. If you eat, the gallbladder and ducts will empty to help digest food and will not be easily seen during the test. If your test is scheduled in the morning, we suggest that you eat nothing after midnight the night before the test is scheduled.

What is the prep for an abdominal ultrasound? ›

You usually need to avoid food and drinks for 8 to 12 hours before an abdominal ultrasound. This is called fasting. Fasting helps prevent gas buildup in the belly area, which could affect the results. Ask your provider if it's OK to drink water before the test.

What not to do before ultrasound? ›

Preparing for an ultrasound scan
  • drink water and not go to the toilet until after the scan – this may be needed before a scan of your unborn baby or your pelvic area.
  • avoid eating or drinking for several hours before the scan – this may be needed before a scan of your digestive system, including the liver and gallbladder.

Why do they ask you to drink water before an ultrasound? ›

It is difficult for us to visualize your bladder with ultrasound unless it is full of fluid. Having a full bladder will also push the bowel out of the way and help to visualize other pelvic structures more clearly.

Do they go inside you for an ultrasound? ›

For a transvaginal ultrasound

You will lie on an examination table, with your feet and legs supported as for a pelvic examination. A long, thin transvaginal transducer will be covered with a plastic or latex sheath and lubricated. The tip of the transducer will be inserted into your vagina.

How do they find colon polyps without a colonoscopy? ›

Stool tests.

Both polyps and colorectal cancers can bleed, and stool tests check for tiny amounts of blood in feces (stool) that cannot be seen visually. (Blood in stool may also indicate the presence of conditions that are not cancer, such as hemorrhoids.)

Can polyps in the colon cause abdominal pain? ›

A large colon polyp can partially obstruct your bowel, leading to crampy abdominal pain. Iron deficiency anemia. Bleeding from polyps can occur slowly over time, without visible blood in your stool.

Can ultrasound detect gallbladder polyps? ›

There are also rare types of benign and malignant true gallbladder polyps, including mesenchymal tumours and lymphomas. Ultrasound is the first-choice imaging method for the diagnosis of gallbladder polyps, representing an indispensable tool for ensuring appropriate management.

Can ultrasound detect bowel blockage? ›

Ultrasound. When an intestinal obstruction occurs in children, ultrasound is often the preferred type of imaging. In youngsters with an intussusception, an ultrasound will typically show a "bull's-eye," representing the intestine coiled within the intestine.

Can IBS be seen on ultrasound? ›

A definitive diagnostic lab test for IBS does not exist. IBS cannot be seen on an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or colonoscopy. Patients who see a gastroenterologist for abdominal pain will often have testing and imaging (most commonly an ultrasound or a CT scan) completed to rule out other causes of abdominal pain.

How does it feel when colon is inflamed? ›

Inflammation involves the rectum and sigmoid colon — the lower end of the colon. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, and an inability to move the bowels despite the urge to do so. This is called tenesmus.

What part of the abdomen does diverticulitis affect? ›

The signs and symptoms of diverticulitis include: Pain, which may be constant and persist for several days. The lower left side of the abdomen is the usual site of the pain. Sometimes, however, the right side of the abdomen is more painful, especially in people of Asian descent.

Will a colonoscopy confirm diverticulitis? ›

The test can be used to diagnose diverticular disease in people who have symptoms. Colonoscopies are also commonly used as a screening tool for colon cancer. In fact, many people are unexpectedly diagnosed with diverticular disease as a result of a routine colonoscopy.

What is the best scan for diverticulitis? ›

A CT scan, which can identify inflamed or infected pouches and confirm a diagnosis of diverticulitis. CT can also indicate the severity of diverticulitis and guide treatment.

How accurate are abdominal ultrasounds? ›

Ultrasound accuracy, as confirmed by operation, was highest for splenic masses (100%) and for aortic aneurysm (88%). Liver masses were correctly identified in 56% of patients and gallbladder lesions in 38%. While only a 48% accuracy was obtained in diagnosing pancreatic disease, 64% of all pseudocysts were localized.

How much should I drink before an ultrasound? ›

Before an ultrasound scan

You'll be asked to drink some water (about a pint/500 ml) an hour before the early pregnancy screening scan. Having water in your bladder will help the sonographer to see your baby more clearly.

Can ultrasound detect gastritis? ›

Sonography can be used effectively to evaluate the stomach and duodenum. A mucosal thickness greater than 4 mm in the gastric antrum may suggest the presence of gastritis. Marked transmural gastric wall thickening is typical of gastritis, with documented resolution after appropriate therapy.

Why would a doctor order an abdominal ultrasound? ›

Doctors order an abdominal ultrasound when they're concerned about symptoms such as belly pain, repeated vomiting, abnormal liver or kidney function tests, or a swollen belly. The tests can show them the size of the abdominal organs and help them check for injuries to or diseases of the organs.

Does abdominal ultrasound look at kidneys? ›

Abdominal ultrasound is a type of imaging test. It is used to look at organs in the abdomen, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. The blood vessels that lead to some of these organs, such as the inferior vena cava and aorta, can also be examined with ultrasound.

What does green mean on ultrasound? ›

Some maps encode turbulent flow in yellow or green. Turbulent flow is present when there are large variations in flow velocity within the sample region.

Will ultrasound tech tell me if something is wrong? ›

Ultrasound technicians, or sonographers, are trained to operate ultrasound machines and take fetal measurements. Since they are not medical practitioners, they are not qualified to give medical diagnoses.

Will a radiologist tell you if something is wrong? ›

“They aren't doctors, and while they do know how to get around your anatomy, they aren't qualified to diagnose you.” That is true even though the tech likely knows the answer to your question. Imaging techs administer thousands of scans a year.

Why is my doctor sending me for an ultrasound? ›

An ultrasound scan can be used to monitor an unborn baby, diagnose a condition, or guide a surgeon during certain procedures.

Why would a doctor order an abdominal and pelvic ultrasound? ›

A pelvic ultrasound is used during pregnancy to check the baby. A pelvic ultrasound also may be done for the following: Cysts, fibroid tumors , or other growths or masses in the pelvis found when your doctor examines you. Bladder growths or other problems.

Can abdominal ultrasound detect kidney failure? ›

So, to the question of whether an ultrasound can tell if you have kidney failure, the answer is: Yes.

What are the 3 types of ultrasounds? ›

echocardiogram, which examines the heart. 3D ultrasound, which shows a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. 4D ultrasound, which creates a three-dimensional picture in motion.

Do you get ultrasound results immediately? ›

Generally speaking, most ultrasounds will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete, and in most cases, you are told the results as soon as you finish the scan, but the actual image may need to be analyzed by the radiologist. The written report will be available soon after the test.

What cancers can a pelvic ultrasound detect? ›

A transvaginal ultrasound is also helpful for detecting endometrial cancer, which is cancer of the lining of the uterus. The imaging technique may be used to evaluate women who experience bleeding after menopause. Specifically, a transvaginal ultrasound is used to determine the thickness of the endometrium.

What is the difference between an ultrasound and a pelvic ultrasound? ›

Transvaginal ultrasounds are sometimes called “endovaginal ultrasounds” because the device that records images of your pelvic cavity (transducer) is inserted inside your vagina. The process is different from a traditional abdominal ultrasound, where your provider moves the transducer across your belly to record images.

Can ultrasound detect liver damage? ›

An ultrasound, CT scan and MRI can show liver damage. Checking a tissue sample. Removing a tissue sample (biopsy) from your liver may help diagnose liver disease and look for signs of liver damage.

Can an ultrasound detect a kidney blockage? ›

Ultrasound can detect cysts, tumors, abscesses, obstructions, fluid collection, and infection within or around the kidneys. Calculi (stones) of the kidneys and ureters may be detected by ultrasound.

What are the first signs of kidney problems? ›

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Urinating more or less.
  • Decreased mental sharpness.
  • Muscle cramps.
Sep 3, 2021

What should you not do before an ultrasound? ›

Preparing for an Ultrasound
  • Eat a low fat dinner on the evening before the examination- (no fried, fatty or greasy foods and no dairy products)
  • Nothing to eat or drink for 12 hours prior to your appointment.
  • If there are medications that you must take, only drink a small amount of water when taking the medications.

Which type of ultrasound is more accurate? ›

If your pregnancy has a gestational age of less than 8 weeks (between 6 and 8 weeks), a transvaginal ultrasound (inserting the ultrasound probe into your vagina) is usually needed for accurate results.

What is a stomach ultrasound called? ›

Also called transabdominal ultrasound. Abdominal ultrasound. An ultrasound transducer connected to a computer is passed over the surface of the abdomen. The ultrasound transducer bounces sound waves off internal organs and tissues to make echoes that form a sonogram (computer picture).


1. Sonography: Searching for a reason.
(Mayo Clinic)
2. Mayo Clinic vascular surgeon explains abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, treatment
(Mayo Clinic)
3. Your Radiologist Explains: Abdominal Ultrasound
4. How to perform an ultrasound exam of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
5. Abdominal Ultrasound - Basics of Evaluating the Liver
(POCUS 101)
6. Abdominal and Renal Ultrasound
(Radiology Video - radiology made esay)


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