Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Abdominal Ultrasound

Woman lying on exam table. Healthcare provider is holding ultrasound transducer to woman’s abdomen and looking at image on monitor.
A hand-held transducer (probe) is used to help create images of your organs.

An abdominal ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to form pictures of your abdominal organs. It can help find organ problems, such as gallstones, kidney stones, or liver disease. Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation (like an X-ray does) and does not have any known risks. It can also see many blood vessels in the abdomen. If needed as part of your exam, the blood flow in these blood vessels can also be evaluated.

Before your test

  • What you need to do to get ready for the test depends on the area of your body that will be looked at. Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure. Your healthcare provider will give you instructions if required.

  • Follow all other instructions given by your provider.

For best results, be prepared to answer questions about your medical history, including the following:

  • Previous abdominal surgery

  • Previous abdominal imaging tests, including ultrasound, CT, or MRI studies

During your test

  • You may be asked to put on a gown.

  • You will lie on an exam table with your abdomen exposed.

  • A nongreasy gel will be put on your skin.

  • The sonographer will use a handheld probe (transducer) against your abdomen. This probe helps create images of your abdominal organs.

  • You may see the pictures of your organs on screen.

  • Certain organs, like the liver, can be biopsied during an ultrasound. This will require additional steps and your provider can discuss these details with you.

The person who performs the ultrasound is called a sonographer. The sonographer can answer questions about the test. But only a doctor can explain the results. 

Your test results

Your healthcare provider will discuss the test results with you during a follow-up visit or over the phone. Your next appointment is: _________________

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library