Abdominal ultrasound, also called “sonography”, is a type of imaging test that is used to look at organs in the abdomen, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. Apart from these organs, the blood vessels that lead to some of these organs can also be examined with ultrasound.
Some of such blood vessels include the inferior vena cava [IVC] that carries the deoxygenated blood from the lower and middle part of the body into the right atrium of the heart and the aorta that carries oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle of the heart to the other parts of the body.
Abdominal ultrasound is painless and safe. It produces images of the insides of the body, using sound waves. Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test, which means it does not need or demand incision or any insertion into the body. It allows the doctor to see and evaluate blood flow through one’s arteries and veins. It is also known as ultrasound scanning or sonography.
USES OF ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND
This imaging procedure is performed to evaluate the:
- Bile ducts.
- Abdominal aorta [the largest artery in the abdominal cavity].
- Inferior vena cava.
- Other vessels of the abdomen.
Doppler ultrasound [an imaging test that uses sound waves to show blood moving through blood vessels] can help see and evaluate:
- Blockages to blood flow, such as clots.
- Narrowing of vessels.
- Increased blood flow, which may indicate the presence of infection.
- Reduced or absence of blood flow to various organs, such as the ovary or testes.
- Tumors and congenital vascular deformities or malformations.
Ultrasound is used to detect and diagnose different kinds of conditions, such as:
- Abnormal liver function.
- Abdominal pain or enlargement.
- Kidney stones.
- Enlarged abdomen organ.
- An abdominal aortic aneurysm [a protuberance or swelling in the aorta], also known as AAA. The diagnosis for AAA is always suggested for men [65-75 years old], who are currently or were formerly smokers.
Ultrasound may be used to assist with biopsies.
RISKS OF SONOGRAPHY
Ultrasound scanning is safe, and it uses low-power sound waves. There is no known risk associated with the procedure, so far.
SPECIALTY: A board-certified cardiologist.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND
- Fast [do not eat food, or maybe do not drink water] for 8 to 12 hours before taking or undergoing sonography.
- Ask your doctor if you can continue with your routine medications.
- Ask your doctor if you may also drink water during your fast.
Food and liquids in your belly, as well as urine in your bladder, can encumber a lucid image of the structures in your abdomen.
ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND SCANNING PROCEDURES
Usually, the procedures carried out during sonography take about 30 minutes to be fully concluded.
Before The Procedure
- You may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
- You will be asked to remove your jewelry, especially those at the neck and abdominal regions.
- You will be asked to lie on your back, on the examination table.
During The Procedure
An experienced sonographer [the physician who performs ultrasound scans] usually carries out the abdominal ultrasound procedures.
- The sonographer applies a small amount of warm gel to your tummy. The gel works with a transducer [an electronic ultrasound device that converts energy from one form to another] to provide better images.
- The sonographer gently presses the transducer against your stomach area, moving it back and forth over the area of interest, until the desired images are captured.
- Once the imaging is completed, the plain ultrasound gel will be wiped off your skin. Any unwiped gel will dry rapidly. An ultrasound gel does not usually stain or discolor clothing.
After The Procedure
- You may be asked to dress up and wait till the ultrasound images are reviewed.
- You should be able to resume your normal activities immediately.
THE RESULTS OBTAINED FROM SONOGRAPHY SCANS
- A cardiologist [the physician who diagnoses and assesses patients with diseases and defects of the heart and blood vessels] will analyze the images from the ultrasound scan, and send a signal to your doctor. Sometimes, the cardiologist may share the outcome with you, before sending it to your physician.
- Your doctor will discuss the result with you.
- Your physician may schedule follow-up exams, after discussing with you.
Reasons For Follow –up Examinations
- A potential abnormality needs further evaluation with additional views or a special imaging technique.
- To see if there has been any change in an abnormality over time.
- It’s best to see if treatment is working or if an abnormality is stable or has changed.
Abdominal ultrasound has no risk and no known side effects. Most ultrasound scanning is noninvasive (no needles or injections, no incisions). although it may be temporarily uncomfortable, it is not painful.
Ultrasound is widely available, easy to use, and less expensive than other imaging methods. It’s safe and does not use radiation. It gives a clear picture of soft tissues.
LIMITATIONS OF ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND
- Large (fat) patients are more difficult to image by ultrasound. This is because a greater amount of tissue weakens the sound waves as they go deeper into the body and need to be returned to the transducer for analysis.
- Ultrasound cannot penetrate bone, but only outside the bone cells such as fractures or infection surrounding a bone.
- Ultrasound waves are disrupted by air or gas. Therefore, it is not ideal to image the air-filled bowel or organs covered by the bowels. Other air-filled organs include the lungs.
CANDIDATES FOR ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND
- Patients having abnormalities in the following organs:- kidneys, lungs, spleen, pancreas, gall bladder, bile ducts, and abdominal aorta, inferior Varia cava.
- Patients with blockages in their blood vessels, narrowing of vessels.
- Patients with tumors and congenital vascular malfunctions.
- Patients with reduced or hindered blood flow to various organs such as the ovary or testes.
- Patients who need a diagnosis in different kinds of conditions, such as liver dysfunction, abdominal pain or enlargement, gallstones, kidney stones, enlarged abdominal organ.
- Patients (men of 65 -75year old) with abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
Who is Competent to Perform Abdominal Ultrasound?
The images from the test will be reviewed by a board-certified cardiologist. He relies on the result he/she received from an abdominal ultrasound done by the radiologist, sonographer, or a qualified, trained technician. Oftentimes, abdominal ultrasounds are performed at the request of a medical practitioner. Report of abdominal ultrasound is therefore usually addressed and sent to the doctor who requested for the test.
The abdominal ultrasound procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete. Patients can return to their normal duties/activities immediately.
DURATION FOR RESULTS
It may take 3 – 4 days before you know the results of your test.
- What does red mean on an abdominal ultrasound?
In color Doppler, frequency changes are converted into color on the screen. Blue means the blood is moving away from the transducer, red means blood is moving towards the transducer (note blue and red does not necessarily mean low-oxygen and high-oxygen blood respectively).
- Can I have coffee before an abdominal ultrasound?
If you eat anything within 6 hours of your exam, your gallbladder may not look normal in the ultrasound images. During your first, you may drink clear liquids such as black coffee, tea, and water. Do not drink anything that contains fat or sugar.
- Can an ultrasound see the inflammation?
Ultrasound imaging can detect inflammation in your joints, even if you don’t have noticeable symptoms. This can help your doctor form an accurate picture of your condition and provide more effective and targeted treatment. A CRP test may be used to diagnose inflammation autoimmune diseases.
- Can you pee before an ultrasound?
Drink 4 – 6 (8ounce) cups of water before your ultrasound. Don’t urinate (pee) before your ultrasound. Having a full bladder will make it easier to see your uterus and ovaries
- What is the cost of an abdominal ultrasound?
The cost of ultrasound ranges from $155 to $750. Those on high deductible health plans or without insurance can shop, compare prices and save.
In Africa, for instance, Nigeria, the ultrasound scan can be done for anything between =N=5,000 and =N=20,000 depending on the clinic or hospital you are using and the part of the body you are scanning.