An ultrasound is used to show details of structures in the abdomen. It can show features like the size and movement of organs, cysts or growths, or fluid collections. An ultrasound of the abdomen is most often done to:
Diagnose an injury or disease
Help determine the cause of abdominal pain, especially appendicitis
A physical exam may be done. Bodily fluids may also be tested. This can be done with blood or urine tests.
In some cases, the doctor may advise the following:
Fast for 8-12 hours before the test. This will decrease the amount of gas in the intestines and make organs easier to see.
Have a full bladder before the test. The doctor may advise drinking 6 or more glasses of water without going to the bathroom.
Description of the Test
You will be positioned on a table. A gel will be placed over the area that will be checked. The gel helps the sound waves travel from a wand to your body.
The ultrasound machine has a hand-held wand. The wand is pushed against your skin where the gel has been applied. The wand sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the wand. The computer can convert echoes into images on a screen. The images on the screen are examined by your doctor. A photograph of them may be taken.
You may be asked to change positions or hold your breath during the exam.
ACR-SPR-SRU practice parameter for performing and interpreting diagnostic ultrasound examinations. American College of Radiology website. Available at:
General ultrasound. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at:
https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=genus. Updated March 9, 2018. Accessed April 3, 2018.
Ultrasound—abdomen. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated March 17, 20176. Accessed April 3, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD Last Updated: 6/24/2013