Ultrasound of the abdominal cavity what is it, preparation and conduct

Abdominal ultrasound: what is it, how is it done and what does the result of the study mean?

The principle of the ultrasound diagnostic method

One of the most informative, safe, non-invasive and simple methods for diagnosing diseases of the digestive tract is ultrasound examination (hereinafter referred to as ultrasound) of the abdominal cavity. The method is based on the reflection of ultrasonic waves at the border of tissues of different density, which is recorded by a special device.

Then he transfers information to the computer, the latter displays the image on the screen. The doctor evaluates the picture. Deviations from the norm are considered to be a pathology, but it is not always possible to make an accurate diagnosis based on only one research method.

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What can be seen

With the help of ultrasound, it is possible to visualize such organs as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, gallbladder with bile ducts, spleen, stomach and intestinal loops, large vessels of this localization, bladder (in a filled state).

How to prepare for the study

To obtain the most informative results of the examination, the patient is recommended to have preliminary preparation within 3 days. For this period of time, it is advisable to completely exclude from the diet foods that contribute to the accumulation of gases in the intestines. With increased flatulence, ultrasound will be extremely difficult, and the interpretation of the results is ambiguous.

Without preparation, the study is carried out in emergency cases, when waiting time can lead to serious consequences.

The diet excludes foods such as pastries, soda, raw fruits and vegetables, milk, bread, especially black, alcoholic beverages. It is better to eat porridge in water, boiled lean meat or fish. Drink fruit drinks, water and tea without sugar, with a volume of at least 1,5 liters (less if there are contraindications).

Eat in small portions and often (6-8 times a day), avoid overeating. For patients who often suffer from gas formation in the intestines, it will be useful to take enzyme preparations on the eve of the study.

On the day of the procedure, it is better to refrain from smoking and chewing gum.

How is the

An ultrasound scan must be performed on an empty stomach. The last meal is no later than 6 hours before visiting a doctor, and preferably after a 12-hour fast. Dinner should be light and bulky, lean.

Do not drink water 2 hours before the study. An exception is when it is necessary to conduct an examination with a full bladder.

Before the examination, the patient needs to take off his shoes, undress to the waist and lie down on the couch. The apparatus and the doctor are located at the right side of the headboard. A small amount of gel is applied to the sensor to remove any air gap between the sensor and the skin. Next, proceed to the inspection.

The sensor is located above the examined organ, left-right, up-down or circular movements are made to obtain a volumetric image. During the examination, the doctor may ask you to inhale and hold your breath or turn to one side. This is done in order to maximally remove the organ from under the shadow of others.

Average duration is about 20-30 minutes.

The procedure is painless. Pain and discomfort are possible in the presence of an inflammatory process or blockage of an organ or duct. For example, with acute cholecystitis or pancreatitis, renal or hepatic colic. However, in these cases, this diagnostic method is very informative for clarifying the diagnosis and carrying out differential diagnostics.

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What can be seen during the examination

An ultrasound scan helps a specialist obtain information about the shape and size of the examined organ, the homogeneity of its structure, the presence of stones or neoplasms, the accumulation of liquid or gas in the abdominal cavity.

Each of these parameters can be a variant of the norm, talk about a specific pathology, or be an indirect sign of the presence of a disease.

The whole picture that the doctor received during the examination is evaluated. If the diagnosis is unclear, additional examination and consultations of related specialists may be required.

The patient receives the result of the examination in his hands after some time, which is necessary for entering information into a computer and processing the obtained data. As a rule, this takes no more than 15-20 minutes.

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The conclusion includes a description of each of the organs and the presumptive diagnosis. In some cases, if there are changes, the functional diagnostics doctor recommends contacting a narrow specialist (nephrologist, hepatologist, endocrinologist), a local therapist or the doctor who ordered the examination.

Interpretation of the ultrasound result

Interpreting the results requires preparation. For each organ located in the abdominal cavity, there is a specific list of diseases that can be detected by ultrasound. There is also a number of pathologies that can occur in any of them and look the same.

For example, tumor-like formations have a clear outline, rounded (benign) or irregular shape (one of the signs of malignancy), the density is higher than the investigated organ, a homogeneous structure. It happens in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines, ureter, bladder, can be located outside the organ.

Cysts, unlike tumors, are fluid formations and have a wall. Can be single, multiple or multi-chamber.

An abscess looks like a cyst, characterized by the presence of inflammation of the wall and adjacent tissues. Clinically confirmed (hectic temperature, signs of intoxication, pain). The characteristic localization is in the parenchymal organs (liver, spleen, kidney, pancreas) or retroperitoneally.

This diagnostic method also makes it possible to diagnose a rupture. Traumatic or spontaneous also occurs in the parenchymal organs. A rupture or dissection of the abdominal aortic wall may also be seen. In the picture, the integrity of part or all of the organ is broken, blood is determined.

Liquid or gas can be detected in the abdominal cavity. This is an indirect sign of a serious pathology of the body. Gas can enter the abdominal cavity from any hollow organ if it is damaged (intestines, stomach). The liquid can be of different composition and quantity.

Blood with intra-abdominal bleeding, ascitic fluid with cirrhosis of the liver, inflammatory discharge in the presence of acute surgical or gynecological pathology. Determination of even an insignificant volume requires urgent consultation with a specialist.

Stones are a very common finding on abdominal ultrasound. In most cases, it is casual and does not cause any concern to the patient. Found in the gallbladder, bile ducts, in the kidneys and ureter, in the bladder.

The presence of calculus indicates a violation of the metabolic processes of the body. Requires the supervision of a specialist and the selection of individual treatment. More active tactics when moving and having pain or complaints.

By means of ultrasound, it is possible to determine the activity of the process and clarify whether it is acute or chronic. This is possible due to visualization of the thickness of the organ wall (for example, gallbladder with cholecystitis) or changes in the structure of the organ itself, its shape or size (hepatitis – acute or hepatosis – chronic).

However, an increase in size does not always indicate the presence of inflammation. In some pathological conditions, one of the paired organs takes on the function of the second patient, as a result of which his hypertrophy occurs. Or hepatomegaly (enlargement of the spleen) may indicate serious circulatory disorders.

Among the abnormalities, there may be a duplication of an organ or its part, or its absence, location in an atypical place.


Ultrasound examination of the abdominal organs is a fairly informative method for diagnosing most pathologies. It has many advantages, including: no contraindications, painlessness (most often), non-invasiveness (without compromising the integrity of the skin), simplicity and mobility (there are portable ultrasound machines).

Safety and repeatability to monitor disease or treatment progress. Thanks to its introduction into medical practice, the number of diagnostic errors in diseases of the abdominal organs has sharply decreased and the level of treatment for many pathologies has increased.

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Tatyana Jakowenko

Editor-in-chief of the Detonic online magazine, cardiologist Yakovenko-Plahotnaya Tatyana. Author of more than 950 scientific articles, including in foreign medical journals. He has been working as a cardiologist in a clinical hospital for over 12 years. He owns modern methods of diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and implements them in his professional activities. For example, it uses methods of resuscitation of the heart, decoding of ECG, functional tests, cyclic ergometry and knows echocardiography very well.

For 10 years, she has been an active participant in numerous medical symposia and workshops for doctors - families, therapists and cardiologists. He has many publications on a healthy lifestyle, diagnosis and treatment of heart and vascular diseases.

He regularly monitors new publications of European and American cardiology journals, writes scientific articles, prepares reports at scientific conferences and participates in European cardiology congresses.