Diagnostic Ultrasound of the Abdomen

Diagnostic Ultrasound of the Abdomen



An ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the body. This type of ultrasound takes pictures of the inside of the belly.

Abdominal Ultrasound

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Reasons for Test

This test may be done to:

  • Diagnose an injury or disease
  • Help find out the cause of belly pain, such as appendicitis
  • Identify gallbladder stones or kidney stones
  • Look at masses or fluid buildup in the belly
  • Look for the cause of poor liver or kidney function
  • Help find out why an internal organ is larger than normal
  • Examine the baby and uterus of someone who is pregnant

Possible Complications

There are no known risks from this test.

What to Expect

Prior to test

The care team will meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the test
  • Fasting before the test, such as avoiding food and drink for at least 8 hours before the test
  • Whether you need a full bladder before the test

Description of the Test

You will be positioned on a table. A gel will be placed over the belly. A hand-held wand is pushed against the skin. The wand sends sound waves into your body. The waves bounce off internal organs and echo back to the wand. The computer changes the echoes into images on a screen. The images 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. You may feel some discomfort if you have a full bladder during the test.

After Test

The gel will be cleaned off your belly.

How Long Will It Take?

30 minutes

Will It Hurt?

Most people do not have any problems after this test. You will be able to go back to normal activities.


The images will be sent to a doctor who specializes in reading them. Your doctor will share the results with you.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Association for Medical Ultrasound
Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America


Canadian Association of Radiologists
Canadian Radiation Protection Association


ACR-SPR-SRU practice parameter for performing and interpreting diagnostic ultrasound examinations. American College of Radiology website. Available at: https://www.acr.org/-/media/ACR/Files/Practice-Parameters/us-perf-interpret.pdf. Accessed September 15, 2020.
General ultrasound. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=genus. Accessed September 15, 2020.
Ultrasound—abdomen. Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed September 15, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN
Last Updated: 3/19/2021

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