Renal Ultrasound

(Ultrasound, Renal)


This test uses sound waves to study the urinary system. The urinary system includes the kidneys, bladder, and ureters. Ureters are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder.

Reasons for Test    TOP

The test is done to look for:

  • Changes in the kidneys, bladder, and ureters
  • Changes in kidney size or structure
  • Kidney stone—cyst, mass, or other obstruction in the kidney
  • Stones in the urinary tract
  • Changes in the ureters

The test is also done to look at:

  • Kidneys before doing a renal biopsy, which removes tissue from the kidney for examination
  • Blood flow to the kidneys using a Doppler ultrasound

Urinary System with Stones

kidney stone and urinary system
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Possible Complications    TOP

There are no complications associated with this test.

What to Expect    TOP

Prior to Test

  • Your doctor may do a physical exam.
  • You must have a full bladder for the test. Do not empty your bladder until after the ultrasound.

Description of Test

You will lie on a table. A gel will be put on your belly over your bladder and kidneys. The gel helps the sound waves travel between the machine and your body.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer. It looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is pushed against your skin where the gel was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off your internal organs and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted into images that are shown on a screen. The images are examined. A photograph of them may be made.

After Test    TOP

The gel will be wiped from your belly.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

30-45 minutes

Will It Hurt?    TOP


Results    TOP

Your images will be viewed by your doctor or radiologist. Problems in your organs may be detected. Blockages may be seen in the ureters. In this case, more tests may be done to find the exact problem and cause.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

Call your doctor if you have any questions about the test, your condition, or your test results.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Kidney Foundation


The Kidney Foundation of Canada


Imaging of the urinary tract. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 24, 2012. Accessed August 31, 2015.
Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated August 17, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2015.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 5/28/2014

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