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What is an abdominal ultrasound?

Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound is a noninvasive, painless imaging test. Your doctor uses an ultrasound machine to look at the size, structure and movement of blood and organs inside your belly. Ultrasound, also called sonography, uses sound waves instead of X-rays (radiation) to make images of your internal organs.

Abdominal ultrasound helps diagnose diseases and conditions of the organs inside the belly. This includes problems with the stomach, liver, kidneys, bladder, intestines, gallbladder, spleen, appendix and pancreas. 

You may have an abdominal ultrasound if you have certain symptoms, such as severe or persistent belly pain or swelling, or ongoing vomiting. Your doctor may use an abdominal ultrasound if other tests do not diagnose your condition or to guide a biopsy procedure. 

Your doctor may also order a Doppler ultrasound with your abdominal ultrasound. A Doppler ultrasound makes images of blood flow through vessels that run through the abdomen, such as the aorta.

An abdominal ultrasound is only one method used to test for many diseases and conditions. Discuss all of your testing options with your doctor or healthcare provider to understand which options are right for you.

Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jun 30, 2013

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View Sources

Medical References

Abdominal ultrasound. Encyclopedia of Surgery. http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/A-Ce/Abdominal-Ultrasound.html. Accessed April 12, 2013.
Abdominal Ultrasound. RadiologyInfo.org. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=abdominus. Accessed April 12, 2013.
Ultrasound: Abdomen. KidsHealth. http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medical/ultrasound_abdomen.html. Accessed April 12, 2013.

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