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Abdominal Ultrasound

To learn more about the Abdominal Ultrasound

Sonography, or ultrasound examination, is a medical imaging technique that allows viewing inside the body. It is done using a transducer, also called a ‘probe’, which emits high frequency sound waves (ultrasounds). When reflected by the body’s internal structures, these waves produce images. Sonography can also be useful to guide the punction of an organ, an intra-articualr injection or a biopsy.

Since ultrasounds are absorded by gas and stopped by hard structures such as bone and calcification, some internal organs are not well viewed with sonography which, therefore, is not the primary choice for examining them. It is the case for the lungs, intestines, stomac, and brain. Unlike MRI, CT scan and X-ray, no ionizing radiations are used during sonography. It is painless and non-invasive, which makes it safe for repetitive use.

The sonography is performed by a specialized medical imagery technologist, called a sonographer, or a radiologist. The patient lies topless on their back or side. A gel is applied to the skin to help with the ultrasounds’ transmission and ease the movements of the probe. This type of examination is usualy painless, but the patient may experience some discomfort as the sonographer presses with the probe.

The abdominal ultrasound is the ideal examination to explore abdominal viscera such as the liver, gallbladder and bile ducts, kidneys, spleen, pancreas and abdominal aorta. The sonographer sweeps the entire abdominal surface with the probe to investigate the organs size, shape and anomalies in their structures. The waves are reconstructed into images on a screen as the sonographer or radiologist is carefully examining them.

The abdominal ultrasound can provide much information on abdominal organs that are more complete than regular X-rays.

Abdominal ultrasound examination mainly explores:

  • Gallbladder and bile ducts : gallstones, duct dilatation, tumors, abcess, inflammation of the wall, polyps, sludge;
  • Liver : size, shape and homogeneity (cirrhosis, steatosis, or fatty liver), cysts, abcess, tumors, metastasis of non liver cancers;
  • Spleen : Shape, size, swelling, tears;
  • Pancreas : Cysts, pancreatitis, cancer, dilated duct;
  • Kidneys : Stones,  dilatation of the renal pelvis and ureter, cysts, malformations, position (ectopic kidbey);
  • Abdominal aorta and and inferior vena cava: aneurysm, calcifications, blockages;
  • Abdominal wall and cavity: hernia, lipoma.

Sonography can also help to show abnormal lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) or the presence of free fluids (ascitis), blood and suspicious masses.

To proceed to the abdominal sonography, the patient must be fasting for at least 8 hours. Food, drinks (other than water) and cigarettes are not allowed.

The abdominal ultrasound takes about thirty minutes. A detailed report is written by the radiologist and is then transmitted to the patient’s physician who will, if necessary, make decisions regarding treatment and/or further investigations.