An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves and a monitor to create images of the blood vessels, tissues and organs in the abdomen. Although it’s considered the “gold standard” for diagnosing an abdominal aortic aneurysm, this test may be used to check for problems with the appendix, intestines, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, kidneys or urinary tract. 

In this test, a transducer (ultrasound probe) is placed on your abdomen and slowly moved from one area to another. The transducer receives sound waves bouncing back from the abdomen and projects the image onto the monitor. The ultrasound technician saves these images to share with your doctor, who uses them to make a diagnosis and formulate your treatment plan.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s expert imaging team provides you with access to leading-edge ultrasound technologies, close to home in Columbus. Learn more about vascular care at Ohio State.

Conditions treated

In this procedure, physicians evaluate the blood flow through the abdominal aorta, as well as direct imaging of the blood vessel wall to determine if you have an aneurysm.

The technician will give your vascular specialist information regarding the size of an aortic aneurysm, if there is one, as well as information about the appearance of the blood vessel wall. Your vascular specialist uses this information to create a customized treatment plan for your aneurysm. 

If you’re a man between the ages of 65 and 75 and a current or former cigarette smoker, your doctor may recommend a preventive screening abdominal ultrasound to make sure you don’t have an aneurysm.

What to expect during an abdominal ultrasound

Preparing for your procedure

Your physician will give you instructions to follow before your ultrasound procedure. Often, you’ll have to refrain from food or drink for up to 12 hours prior to the test. Always ask for instructions when scheduling your ultrasound, including whether you need to stop taking any of your regular medications prior to undergoing the abdominal ultrasound.

During your procedure

A specially trained ultrasound technician (sonographer) will perform your abdominal ultrasound in an outpatient radiology center or in the hospital. Before you begin, you’ll put on a medical gown, remove any jewelry you have on and lie down on a table. 

The sonographer will begin by spreading a warm gel on the skin of your abdomen where the ultrasound will be done. This gel helps transmit the sound waves used to create the images of an ultrasound. Then the sonographer will move a transducer around on your abdomen to view inside your body and capture the images your doctor needs. You may experience slight discomfort due to the position of the transducer but shouldn’t feel any pain. The entire process will take about an hour. 

After your procedure

You should feel no adverse effects after your abdominal ultrasound is complete. There are no risks associated with this procedure, and it doesn’t use radiation. You can return to your normal activities immediately after undergoing an abdominal ultrasound. A radiologist (a doctor who specializes in reading and interpreting ultrasound images) will review your images and make a report. Your physician will receive this report and will contact you about the next steps in your care plan. Next steps may include additional screening tests, watchful monitoring or surgery to correct an aneurysm.

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