Some various signs and symptoms may indicate a problem within the abdomen. Some common signs include:
- Pain: Pain in the abdomen can be caused by various factors, such as gas, constipation, or an abdominal injury. A doctor should evaluate persistent abdominal pain.
- Bloating: Abdominal bloating can be caused by gas, constipation, or fluid accumulation within the abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting: Nausea and vomiting can be caused by various conditions, such as food poisoning, a stomach virus, or digestive issues.
- Diarrhoea: Diarrhea can be caused by various factors, such as food poisoning, a stomach virus, or digestive issues.
- Constipation: Constipation can be caused by various factors, such as a low-fibre diet, lack of physical activity, or certain medications.
- Changes in bowel habits: Changes in bowel habits, such as the frequency, consistency, or colour of stool, can be a sign of digestive issues.
- Loss of appetite: A loss of appetite can be caused by various conditions, such as digestive issues, illness, or stress.
- Abdominal swelling: Abdominal swelling can be caused by fluid accumulation within the abdomen or by the enlargement of an internal organ.
It is crucial to remember that these symptoms can be caused by various factors and may not always indicate a problem within the abdomen. If you are experiencing any persistent or concerning symptoms, it is essential to discuss them with your GP.
Preparation for an abdominal ultrasound includes the following:
- Fasting: You will be asked to fast for at least 4-6 hours before the scan to ensure the best images of the abdominal organs.
- Hydration: It is essential to drink at least one litre of water one hour before the scan to help fill the bladder and improve the visibility of the abdomen.
- Clothing: You may be asked to wear loose, comfortable clothing and remove any clothing, jewellery, or metallic objects that may interfere with the images.
It is essential to inform the sonographer of any recent surgeries, illnesses, or allergies you may have before the scan, as this may affect the preparation for the ultrasound.
An abdominal ultrasound is a safe and non-invasive procedure with minimal risks and complications. Some individuals may experience discomfort or pressure from the transducer as it is moved over the skin and their bladder is full.
Overall, abdominal ultrasound is considered a safe and effective diagnostic tool. It is essential to inform the sonographer of any medical conditions, medications, or allergies you may have before the ultrasound scan. This may affect the results or increase the risk of complications.
Your sonographer will provide you with more information and instructions before the scan to ensure that you are fully prepared.
An abdominal ultrasound is typically performed as follows:
- Positioning: You will be asked to lie on an examination table on your back or side with your clothes removed from the abdominal area.
- Gel application: A clear gel will be applied to the skin on your abdomen to help the transducer make good contact and produce clear images. It is non-toxic and does not cause any adverse reactions in most people.
- Transducer use: The sonographer will use a handheld device called a transducer that emits high-frequency sound waves and receives the echoes to produce images of the organs and structures within the abdomen. The transducer will be moved over the skin to create images from different angles.
- Examination time: The scan typically takes 15-20 minutes.
Throughout the scan, you may be asked to hold your breath, move into different positions, or change your position to help the sonographer obtain the best images possible. The scan is non-invasive and painless, although some discomfort or pressure may be felt from the transducer as it is moved over the skin.
An abdominal ultrasound can be used to produce images of a variety of internal organs and structures within the abdomen, including:
- Liver: The size, shape, and texture of the liver, as well as the presence of any masses or abnormal growths.
- Gallbladder: The presence of polyps, gallstones, wall irregularity, tumours or obstructions within the gallbladder.
- Pancreas: The size and shape of the pancreas and the presence of any masses or abnormal growths.
- Spleen: The size, shape, and texture of the spleen, as well as the presence of any masses or abnormal growths.
- Kidneys: The size, shape, and texture of the kidneys, as well as the presence of any obstruction, stone, dilated tubes, masses or abnormal growths, such as cysts or tumours.
- Bladder: The size and shape of the bladder, as well as the presence of any wall abnormality, masses or abnormal growths.
- Aorta: The size and shape of the largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
- Fetus: During pregnancy, an abdominal ultrasound can be used to evaluate the growth and development of the fetus, including its size, position, and overall health of the fetus.
These are just a few examples of what can be seen on an abdominal ultrasound. The specific images obtained during the procedure will depend on the reason for the ultrasound scan and the areas of the abdomen being evaluated.
Abdominal ultrasound can detect certain types of cancer, but it is not a definitive diagnostic tool for cancer. The scan can produce images of the internal organs and structures within the abdomen; any abnormal growths or masses seen on the images may indicate cancer.
However, further testing may be needed to confirm a cancer diagnosis, such as a biopsy, CT scan, or MRI. An abdominal ultrasound may also be used with other diagnostic tests to monitor the progression or response to treatment for individuals who have already been diagnosed with cancer.
It is important to note that an abdominal ultrasound is just one tool in the cancer diagnostic process. A sonographer will consider the ultrasound results in conjunction with a patient's medical history, symptoms, and other diagnostic tests to make a diagnosis.
A radiologist or sonographer interprets the results of an abdominal ultrasound a physician specialising in medical imaging. The radiologist will review the images produced during the ultrasound and prepare a written report of the findings that will be sent to your email within 24 hours.
It is essential to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about the results of the abdominal ultrasound with the sonographer and the GP, as they will be able to provide you with more information and answer any questions you may have.
The specific next steps will depend on the type and extent of the abnormality and the individual's medical history and symptoms. If abnormalities are detected on abdominal ultrasound, further testing may be needed to confirm the results and make a definitive diagnosis.
Potential next steps may include:
- Repeat ultrasound: Sometimes, a repeat ultrasound may be performed to confirm the results or obtain clearer images.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure that involves removing a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope. This may be done if a mass or growth is seen on the ultrasound, and further testing is needed to determine if it is cancerous.
- CT scan: A CT (computed tomography) scan is a type of medical imaging that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce detailed images of the body.
- MRI: An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a type of medical imaging that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body.
- Referral to a specialist: In some cases, individuals may be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, urologist, or oncologist, for further evaluation and treatment.
It is essential to follow the recommendations of the sonographer and discuss any concerns you may have about the abdominal ultrasound results. Early diagnosis and treatment of any abnormalities detected on the ultrasound can significantly improve outcomes and help prevent the condition's progression.
Yes, there are some limitations associated with an abdominal ultrasound:
- Air and gas: Air and gas within the intestine can interfere with the transmission of ultrasound waves, leading to unclear images in some regions of the abdomen.
- Obstruction: An abdominal ultrasound may not be able to produce clear images of specific structures if they are obstructed, such as if stool or fluid is blocking the view.
- Fatty tissue: Fatty tissue can also interfere with the transmission of ultrasound waves, leading to unclear images in some abdomen regions.
- Bone and metal: The presence of bone or metal within the body can also interfere with the transmission of ultrasound waves, leading to unclear images.
- Limited accuracy for specific conditions: While an abdominal ultrasound can provide valuable information about the internal organs and structures within the abdomen, it is not always the most accurate test for certain conditions, such as small tumours or abnormalities within the pelvis. Other tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, may be needed in these cases to obtain more precise images.