Abdominal ultrasounds are used to diagnose a wide range of medical issues in a non-invasive manner. They are extremely beneficial in determining the correct diagnosis for a wide range of medical issues in a non-invasive manner. Although they require the patient to fast overnight or for a few hours, they are generally quick procedures that cause little to no discomfort to the patient.
Keep reading to learn more about this imaging test that uses sound waves instead of radiation to take pictures of a person’s internal organs.
What is an abdominal ultrasound?
An imaging test, the abdominal ultrasound, uses high-frequency sound waves to see the internal organs in the abdomen i.e., belly area. It is used by doctors to diagnose health conditions or rule them out. During this imaging test, a healthcare provider applies a special gel to the testing area and glides an electronic device—transducer/probe—over the skin. This probe converts electricity to sound waves (inaudible to humans) and transmits them through the skin; the internal organs reflect sound waves, which are then captured by the probe and converted into electrical signals. A computer records the electrical pattern and produces real-time images or videos.
Abdominal ultrasound, also called an abdominal scan or sonogram, is a non-invasive procedure that is used to evaluate the soft tissues and internal organs, structures, and blood flow inside the abdomen. Abdominal ultrasounds can be considered a type of pelvic ultrasound as it also evaluates the pelvic region. Other types of pelvic ultrasounds include transvaginal and rectal ultrasounds.
The Doppler ultrasound is another type of ultrasound scan for the abdomen that is used to assess the speed and direction of the blood flow in the abdominal region. It is also called a duplex study sometimes, and some sound waves during the Doppler ultrasound are audible.
When is an abdominal ultrasound performed?
An abdominal ultrasound is used to check the functioning of major organs, such as kidneys, gallbladder, liver, spleen, and pancreas, in the abdominal region. The doctor may use the abdominal ultrasound to assess the location and size of abdominal organs and check for health conditions, including the following:
- Fluid collection
- Abscesses or collection of pus
- Blood clots or blockages
- Liver cancer
- Enlarged organ
The abdominal ultrasound is also useful in measuring the abdominal aorta’s size and detecting an aortic aneurysm. It may also detect stones in the kidneys, ureters, and gallbladder. Sometimes a surgeon may use an abdominal ultrasound to guide their needles for performing a biopsy or draining a cyst or abscess.
Abdominal ultrasounds are extremely helpful in diagnosing unexplained symptoms as they allow the doctor to ‘see’ the internal organs of the patient without cutting them or making an incision. If a patient is experiencing abdominal pain and other symptoms, the doctor may recommend getting an abdominal ultrasound first. Abdominal ultrasounds may also reduce the number of explorative surgeries.
Preparing and procedure
The doctor will provide specific instructions for preparing for an abdominal ultrasound, which may include fasting from midnight until the morning appointment and having a fat-free dinner. In case the appointment is scheduled for later in the day, the patient may be asked to have a clear liquid breakfast and refrain from consuming food and drinks afterwards. Patients who take medication may be instructed to take only essential medications with a small amount of water. The preparation may vary based on the patient’s medical history.
During the procedure, the patient will be asked to remove clothing and any items that may interfere with the test results and wear a gown. The technician will assist the patient in positioning themselves on the examination table, either on their back or side. The technician will apply gel and use a probe to generate visuals of the internal organs, which will be displayed on a nearby monitor. The images will be stored digitally and shared with the patient or their doctor after a few hours or the next day. Once the technician is satisfied with the visuals, they will clean the gel and conclude the procedure.
Cost of an abdominal ultrasound
An abdominal ultrasound may range from INR 1500 to INR 2500. Depending on the location, hospital, and other factors, the price of an abdominal ultrasound scan may be higher or lower. Government hospitals charge less in comparison to private establishments. The patient may also be able to avail themselves of free ultrasound at a network hospital.
Safety and risk of an abdominal ultrasound
An abdominal ultrasound does not use any radiation, and there is generally no discomfort for the patient during the procedure. Depending on the individual with a specific medical condition, an ultrasound may pose some risks. It is important to discuss such things with the doctor and inform them of any current medications and relevant medical history.
The result of the ultrasound may be inaccurate if the person is severely obese, has intestinal gas, or has barium within the intestines from a recent barium procedure.