Did you know that men between the ages of 65 and 75 who are smokers or were smokers at one point in their lives should get an abdominal ultrasound to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysm?
At some point in the human lifespan, people are susceptible to acute pain in their abdomen. As doctors, you have to do whatever you can to get to the bottom of these issues. One of the most widely available diagnostic tools used for abdominal pain is an abdominal ultrasound.
So, what is an abdominal ultrasound? How does it work? When might you need one for a patient? Have you found yourself wondering “where can I send my patients for an abdominal ultrasound near me?”
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about this type of ultrasound in this abdominal ultrasound guide.
What Is an Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a procedure performed by a medical device that uses high-frequency sound waves to generate an internal image of the body. The image that it creates can be used for diagnosing and treating certain medical conditions.
What Is an Abdominal Ultrasound?
An abdominal ultrasound creates a clear image of the inside of the abdomen, including the organs, soft tissues, and their structures within the abdominal area. The sound waves bounce off the organs and soft tissues in the abdomen.
How Does It Work?
One of our ultrasound technicians will apply lubricating jelly to the abdomen. Over the jelly, a transducer will slide along the stomach, sending out sound waves and recording how long it takes them to come back. The transducer sends signals to the computer so that it can create an image that shows blood flow or deformities within the organs housed inside the abdomen.
An abdomen ultrasound of the right upper quadrant examines three of the digestive system organs, including:
Whereas a complete abdominal ultrasound examines the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder while also examining the:
- Blood vessels (inferior vena cava and aorta)
Abdominal ultrasounds can be used to diagnose medical issues depending on the different quadrants of the abdomen. In the right upper quadrant, an ultrasound can detect issues such as free fluid, cholelithiasis, or hepatic abscess masses. In the right lower quadrant, an abdominal ultrasound can look for appendicitis and/or intussusception.
The abdominal ultrasound can search the left upper quadrant of the abdomen for free fluid, splenic fracture/lacerations, and stomach issues. The left lower quadrant might house diverticulitis or small bowel obstructions that an abdominal ultrasound could find.
Once the sonographer has enough information, they send it to a radiologist. The radiologist will read the ultrasound results before writing up a report and sending it to the physician in charge of the case. From there, the physician will get in touch with the patient (either over the phone or at a follow-up appointment).
What Is It Used For?
A doctor might request an ultrasound of the abdomen for several different reasons that require them to have a clearer image to work with when the patient has severe or acute abdominal pain.
This type of ultrasound can be used to check on an unborn baby (also known as a prenatal ultrasound) because of the pelvis’ location regarding the abdomen. In general, an abdominal ultrasound can help evaluate stomach pain and/or bloating.
An abdominal ultrasound evaluates the condition and function of the abdominal organs (kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas), but it can also evaluate the bile ducts, abdominal aorta, and other blood vessels in the abdomen. They can also check for:
- Blood flow and blockages (clots)
- Narrowed blood vessels
- Tumors or congenital vascular deformities
- Reduced/stopped blood flow in ovaries and testes
- Increased blood flow (indicative of infection)
It can be used to diagnose medical issues, such as:
- Abdominal pain and enlargement (distension)
- Abnormal organ function
- Kidney stones, gallstones, bladder stones
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
An abdominal ultrasound can also be used to assist during certain medical procedures, such as biopsies. Ultrasounds can:
- Show where to place a needle
- Assist in draining an abscess or cyst
- Monitor blood flow within the abdomen
The uses for an abdominal ultrasound are pretty much endless.
What Are the Risks and Benefits?
There are no known risks of performing an abdominal ultrasound. The abdominal ultrasound is a non-invasive procedure that is widely available, safe, and pain-free (unless the transducer presses on a tender area of the abdomen).
It offers a clear image of soft tissues shown in real-time making it useful for biopsies, etc. This is a great alternative to an x-ray because soft tissue doesn’t show well on an x-ray.
Does an Abdominal Ultrasound Have Limitations?
Certain factors make it so that an abdominal ultrasound isn’t as effective as it could be, including the presence of air, gas, bone, or soft tissue.
An abdominal ultrasound isn’t ideal for getting a clear image of air-filled lungs or gas-filled intestines/bowels. It can, however, detect fluid surrounding air-filled lungs.
Unlike x-rays, an abdominal ultrasound doesn’t work for bone scans. It does prove to be an effective tool when checking for the fragmented bone around a fracture or an infection surrounding a bone.
An excess amount of soft tissue can compromise an accurate depiction of the abdomen. This is due to the ultrasound’s sound waves being weakened by the excess. This means it may not be a good method to get a clear image of the abdomen if the patient has more tissue in the abdomen.
Need a Mobile Imaging Service?
So, what is an abdominal ultrasound? Now that you know what an abdominal ultrasound is and what it’s used for, you will be better able to provide services to your patients.
If you need mobile imaging services, you can count on Specialist Direct to perform them, while allowing you to continue providing the best care for your patients. Contact us today to inquire about our services.