A gastroenterologist is a specialist who diagnoses and treats diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and liver. You may be referred to a gastroenterologist for a routine colonoscopy or if you are experiencing problems with your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, or liver.
One of the tests your gastroenterologist may use to evaluate the abdomen and the organs within it is an ultrasound.
What is an Ultrasound?
Ultrasound, also known as sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to create real time imaging of the inside of your body. This imaging is a noninvasive way for your doctor to view your internal organs and tissues.
Reasons for Abdominal Ultrasound
An ultrasound of the abdomen examines the structures of the abdomen, including the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, bile ducts, spleen, and kidney. There are many specific reasons for abdominal ultrasound:
- Ultrasound can be used to check blood flow to the abdominal organs and look for a variety of other conditions that may affect these organs.
- An abdominal ultrasound can be used to look for cysts, tumors, abscesses, obstructions, blockages, or infection.
- Ultrasound may also detect the presence of stones in the gallbladder, kidneys, and ureters.
- If your doctor needs to know the size and location of various abdominal organs, ultrasound may be used.
- When a needle is required to biopsy abdominal tissue or drain fluids, abdominal ultrasound can provide guidance for the placement of the needle.
- Ultrasound can check the abdominal aorta for any bulging or weakened areas that may be linked to an abdominal aortic aneurism.
How to Prepare for an Ultrasound
Preparation for an abdominal ultrasound will include fasting for 8-12 hours before the procedure because any food that is undigested may block the sound waves and make it difficult to get clear images. You may be asked to eat a fat-free dinner the evening before. Check with your doctor about taking your medications and how much water you may consume during your fast.
What to Expect
An ultrasound examination does not cause any pain and can be done is a short amount of time. After removing clothing, jewelry or other items that may obstruct the scan, you will be provided a gown and will lie on the examination table. Gel will be applied to your abdomen and the technician will press the instrument, called a transducer, against your skin and move it around to the necessary areas. The transducer will capture images, which your doctor will evaluate for any abnormalities.
After your exam, you and your doctor will discuss the findings or schedule a follow-up appointment. If any abnormalities were found, your doctor will recommend further testing and treatment options.
If you are experiencing any problems or discomfort of your gastrointestinal tract, contact the Gastroenterology Diagnostic Center to schedule an appointment.