The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Diagnostic Tests - Abdominal Ultrasound
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What is the test?

  • Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to
    generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures
    inside the body. This imaging technique works in a
    manner similar to radar and sonar, developed in
    World War II to detect airplanes, missiles, and
    submarines that were otherwise invisible. After coating
    your skin with a lubricant to reduce friction, a radiologist
    or ultrasound technician places an ultrasound transducer,
    which looks like a microphone, on your skin and may
    rub it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer
    sends sound waves into your body and picks up the
    echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal
    organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes
    into an image that is displayed on a monitor.

    Using an abdominal ultrasound, a doctor can detect
    gallstones, check the liver for cancers, examine the
    kidneys for cancers or for blockages in the flow of
    urine, measure the size of the spleen or the width of
    the aorta (the body’s largest artery), and look for fluid
    around the abdominal organs.

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