What to know about your abdominal ultrasound appointment

How should I prepare for the procedure?

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. Other preparation depends on the type of examination you will have. For some scans, your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink for as many as 12 hours before your appointment. For others, you may be asked to drink several glasses of water two hours prior to your exam and avoid urinating, so that your bladder is full when scanning begins.

How is the procedure performed?

You will be positioned on an examination table, and a clear gel will be applied to your abdomen to help the transducer make secure contact with the skin. The sound waves produced by the transducer cannot penetrate air, so the gel helps to eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin. The radiologist or sonographer then presses the transducer firmly against the skin and sweeps it back and forth to image the area of interest.

When the examination is complete, you may be asked to dress and wait while the ultrasound images are reviewed, either on film or on a TV monitor.

Frequently, the radiologist or sonographer is able to review the ultrasound images in real time as they are acquired, and you can be released immediately.

What will I experience during the procedure?

Ultrasound imaging of the abdomen is fast, easy and painless. There may be varying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the radiologist or sonographer guides the transducer over your abdomen, especially if you are required to have a full bladder. The examination usually takes less than 30 minutes.

Who interprets the results?

A radiologist, who is a doctor experienced in ultrasound and other imaging examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report with his or her interpretation to your primary care physician.

How do I get my results?

Your doctor’s office will tell how to obtain your results. At some facilities, new technology also allows for distribution of diagnostic reports and referral images over the Internet.