Abdominal Ultrasound Scan

An abdominal ultrasound scan is often the first investigation that is carried out to examine the internal organs of the abdomen, including the gallbladder, liver, pancreas, kidneys, urinary bladder, spleen and abdominal aorta.

Why have an abdominal ultrasound scan?

Abdominal pain is the most common indication for an ultrasound scan. It may help your doctor determine the cause of the pain, such as stones in the gallbladder. It can also show more serious diseases such as some forms of cancer and secondary cancer.

An aneurysm or widening of the abdominal aorta can be seen easily on an ultrasound scan and by identifying this condition and monitoring it will allow for action to be taken before it ruptures.

A scan of the kidneys and bladder can detect a variety of complaints and conditions including stones, infections, tumours, congenital abnormalities (these are abnormalities that you have been born with) and problems related to the prostate gland in men.

A male pelvic ultrasound is able to get an indication of the size of the prostate gland; however it is not an accurate method for detecting prostate cancer. If you have any concerns regarding cancer you should discuss these with your GP. To examine the prostate gland in detail a rectal scan needs to be carried out in conjunction with a physical examination, a biopsy and a blood test. All this is usually done under the supervision of a urologist (a specialized doctor). Therefore this is not an examination we can offer at Kent Medical Imaging you will need to be referred by your GP.

Doctors sometimes refer patients for an abdominal ultrasound because they feel generally unwell or their blood test results are abnormal. The ultrasound may identify causes for this and may help the doctor in planning further management.

Do I need to prepare for this scan?

For this scan you may be asked not to eat or drink for 4 hours before your appointment time and then drink 2 pints of fluid at least 1 hour prior to your examination and avoid urinating, so that your bladder is full when the scan begins. We know this can be difficult for some people and we will discuss any worries you have when you make an appointment.

How do I get the results?

After the examination the Ultrasonographer will explain the findings to you however as we do not always have your full medical history or all your test results so we may not be able to comment on everything we see on the scan.

A report will be sent to your doctor after the examination is finished. You will be asked to make an appointment with the doctor who referred you for the scan and they will discuss the results of the scan with you and any further treatment or examinations you might need. If you self-refer a copy of the results will also be sent to you.

Limitations of Ultrasound

Ultrasound does have its limitations which might mean we get limited views of your abdominal organs. These usually occur if: You have a high BMI, if your bladder is not full enough, if you have a lot of gas in your abdomen, or if you have not followed the preparation you would have been given when booking the appointment. For any of the above we may need you to come back for a follow up scan and if this is the case KMI usually carries it out ‘free’ of charge.

Ultrasound can only diagnose abnormalities if they are present at the time of the scan. Abnormalities can develop at any time and whilst the Ultrasonographers at KMI will be looking for signs of early changes in your organs they cannot predict the future. If you have any concerns about this then please discuss them with the Ultrasonographer in the room prior to starting your scan.