Abdominal ultrasound: Purpose | Procedure | Risks | Takeaway

What can we see with an abdominal ultrasound?

Abdominal ultrasounds use sound waves to create images of internal anatomical structures and blood flow in the abdomen. These images of ultrasound are a useful way of examining organs, tissues, blood vessels, and different structures inside the abdomen.

Ultrasound imaging includes sending high-frequency sound waves into the body. These waves reflect off of organs and other structures inside the body. After that, a receiver picks up these response signals.

It is possible to create images by analyzing the information that these signals create.

The abdomen contains many necessary body parts that often require monitoring. Ultrasound imaging is necessary for helping doctors identify issues within the abdomen, such as appendicitis or kidney stones.

Purpose

Abdominal ultrasound

There are several major organs within the abdomen. Using an abdominal ultrasound, it’s possible to create images of those organs. This may also help identify abdominal issues which may be causing symptoms.

Major organs within the abdomen include the:

  • appendix
  • the large and small intestine
  • stomach
  • gallbladder
  • liver
  • pancreas
  • bladder
  • spleen


As well as the organs, it’s possible to use ultrasound to image other important structures within the abdomen, such as tissues, blood vessels, and irregular growths.

For example, a health care provider may wish to inspect the abdominal aorta, which carries blood between the heart and abdominal organs.

In some cases, it might be necessary to use a Doppler ultrasound. This type of ultrasounds can detect modifications in blood circulation through the abdomen.

Because the abdomen contains many essential body elements, several issues can occur there. Such issues might range from inflammation to abnormal hormonal responses, and they can sometimes point out the presence of another condition.

A health care provider could use an ultrasound to diagnose conditions such as:

  • abdominal pain
  • liver disease
  • kidney stones
  • gallstones
  • inflammatory conditions, such as appendicitis or pancreatitis
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • abdominal growths, such as tumors
  • pyloric stenosis
  • hernia
  • cancer


Procedure

Abdominal ultrasound

An ultrasound scan will normally require little preparation.

The exact preparation details will range depending on the nature of the problem and the doctor.

A doctor might advise against eating or drinking for up to several hours before the ultrasound procedure.

To carry out an abdominal ultrasound, a person lies flat on their back on an examination table.

The procedure includes the use of a transducer. This is a wand-like device that sends high-frequency sound waves into the body and picks up the responding signal.

Before they start, the doctor will apply a gel to the abdominal skin. This helps sound waves move through the abdomen more effectively by removing small pockets of air which will interfere. The gel is water-based and easy to wash off after the procedure.

The doctor will then place the transducer/probe on the abdomen. They’ll move the device across the area to create a better image of the abdomen. The transducer might press lightly on the abdomen; however, the procedure shouldn’t really feel uncomfortable.

Certain kinds of ultrasound can create sounds in the process. For example, a Doppler ultrasound will emit clicking sounds in response to any modifications in blood flow.

This process will proceed until the ultrasound image contains enough number of elements for its meant purpose. It’s possible to show the ultrasound image immediately and to take images for future examination.

After completing the ultrasound, the doctor will clear any remaining gel from the abdominal skin.

The procedure should take 30–45 minutes to finish.

The doctor will usually send the ultrasound images to a radiologist for analysis. Radiologists are specialists who can analyze pictures from X-rays and ultrasound tests. They’ll send the outcomes of their analysis back to the doctor, who can use them to make a diagnosis.

Risks

Based on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ultrasound imaging has β€œan excellent safety record.” The process is very unlikely to cause any negative results or complications.

Ultrasound imaging is way safer than other types of medical imaging procedures, such as CT scans or X-rays.

It’s because CT scans and X-rays use ionizing radiation. In some circumstances, this may have an adverse impact on the body and cause reactions. Ultrasounds, however, don’t use any radiation and don’t pose these risks.

Ultrasounds might have some minor effects on the body, although, such as raising the temperature of surrounding tissues.

The FDA also warned that the long-term results of ultrasound imaging are presently unknown. Whereas the procedure is safe, women who are pregnant should restrict the number of ultrasounds scans they undergo as a precaution.

Takeaway

Abdominal ultrasounds are secure procedures. The risk of any complications or adverse reactions could be very low in comparison with different types of medical imaging.

The method presents a quick way to study structures within the abdomen that may aid the diagnosis or monitoring of health conditions.

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