Post By
Gateway Diagnostic Imaging

February 28, 2024

How do I prepare for an abdominal ultrasound?

If you or a loved one has an upcoming appointment for an abdominal ultrasound, then you probably have a lot of questions about the scan. We’re happy to help.

Abdominal ultrasound is a scan that involves the use of sound waves to form images of the structures inside your abdomen, providing valuable insights into your health. 

This non-invasive scan is favored for its safety and effectiveness, offering your doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner a detailed glimpse inside your abdomen.

What does an abdominal ultrasound do?

An abdominal ultrasound looks inside your body by using sound waves to create a picture of your internal organs. 

These high-frequency sound waves are transmitted into the abdomen, and the echoes that return are captured and transformed into images. 

This process gives your doctor a detailed view of organs such as the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys. An abdominal ultrasound’s ability to provide real-time images makes it an invaluable tool for healthcare providers. 

It assists in evaluating organ health, diagnosing conditions, and guiding treatment plans, all while ensuring the patient’s comfort and safety.

Why did my doctor recommend an abdominal ultrasound?

Their recommendation stems from their commitment to offering you comprehensive and cautious care. 

An abdominal ultrasound is used to investigate symptoms, monitor existing conditions, or provide a preventative health measure. 

It serves as a precise and gentle approach to detect and address potential health issues, such as gallstones, liver disease, or kidney conditions

Your diet and medication before an abdominal ultrasound

Preparing for an abdominal ultrasound involves a few straightforward steps regarding your diet and medication intake. Following these guidelines will help Gateway Diagnostic Imaging get the most accurate view of your abdominal organs and structures to analyze for your doctor.

What dietary restrictions do I need to follow before my abdominal ultrasound?

The night before your ultrasound, you might be asked to fast, meaning no eating or drinking after midnight. 

This is because food and liquids in your stomach and intestines can obstruct the sound waves, making it harder for the sonographer to get a clear picture of your abdominal area. 

If your ultrasound is scheduled for later in the day, you may receive specific instructions on how many hours you need to fast. 

Generally, a period of 8 to 12 hours is recommended. It’s essential to follow these instructions closely, as a well-prepared abdomen allows for the most accurate assessments.

Should I avoid certain medications or supplements before my ultrasound?

When it comes to medications and supplements, the best approach is to talk with your doctor about everything you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions, and dietary supplements. 

Some medications might be asked to be temporarily paused or adjusted, especially if they could influence the appearance of your abdominal organs or alter the results of the ultrasound. 

It’s crucial not to make any changes to your medication regimen without first consulting your doctor. They will give you specific instructions based on your individual health needs and the medications you’re taking.

Can I drink water or other fluids before the ultrasound?

Staying hydrated is generally a good practice, but when it comes to an abdominal ultrasound, the rules can be a bit different. 

You might be asked to avoid drinking water or any fluids for a few hours before your appointment, especially if you’re also instructed to fast. 

This is because fluids can fill your stomach and intestines, potentially obscuring the view during the ultrasound. 

We’ll provide you with any specialty instructions at the time you schedule your ultrasound appointment at one of our 12 imaging centers throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Gateway Diagnostic Imaging Sherman ultrasound exam room

The day of your abdominal ultrasound

Knowing what to expect from your ultrasound, and knowing how to prepare for your scan, can help make your experience as smooth and stress-free as possible. It’s important for you to be as comfortable as possible during your ultrasound.

How should I dress for my abdominal ultrasound appointment?

Comfort is key when it comes to dressing for your ultrasound appointment. Opt for loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that can be easily removed or adjusted. 

Since you’ll likely need to expose your abdominal area, wearing a two-piece outfit, such as a shirt and pants or a skirt, is ideal.

Also, consider avoiding jewelry and accessories around your abdomen, as you’ll need to remove these items before the ultrasound begins. 

Dressing practically will not only make you more comfortable but will also help the appointment proceed smoothly.

What happens after I check in for my abdominal ultrasound at the imaging center?

Once you arrive at the imaging center and check in, you’ll be guided to a private area to prepare for the procedure.

The ultrasound technician, also known as a sonographer, will escort you to the ultrasound room and explain the process, ensuring you understand each step. 

When it’s time for your scan, you’ll be asked to lie down on an examination table, and a clear gel (ultrasound gel) will be applied to your abdomen. 

This gel acts as a conductor for the ultrasound waves and ensures the transducer, a handheld device used to see inside your abdomen, can move smoothly over your skin. 

The sonographer will then gently press and move the transducer across your abdomen, capturing images from various angles. 

How long will the ultrasound take, and will I feel uncomfortable?

Abdominal ultrasounds usually last between 30 minutes to an hour. The duration can vary depending on the specific areas being examined and the clarity of the images. 

While the study is non-invasive and usually not painful, you might feel mild discomfort from the pressure of the transducer. The gel might feel cool and wet, but it should not cause any discomfort. 

It’s important to communicate with your sonographer throughout the procedure. If you feel any discomfort or have concerns, don’t hesitate to let them know. They are there to ensure your experience is as comfortable as possible.

After the ultrasound

After your abdominal ultrasound, you should be sure to follow any instructions from your healthcare provider. Many people are able to immediately return to normal activities following an ultrasound.

Are there any special instructions I need to follow after my ultrasound?

Generally, there are no specific restrictions to follow after an abdominal ultrasound. 

This non-invasive procedure doesn’t require recovery time, so you should be able to resume your usual activities immediately. 

Follow any personalized instructions your doctor may give you, as they know your medical history and any specific details of your ultrasound. 

For most people, the gel used during the procedure can be wiped off easily, and there are no lingering effects from the ultrasound. 

Feel reassured that this simple yet effective diagnostic tool allows you to carry on with your day without any downtime.

How and when will I receive the results of my ultrasound?

After your abdominal ultrasound, a radiologist will analyze the images. They will interpret your ultrasound images and compile a report on their findings to send to your doctor for review prior to your follow up appointment with them. 

The time it takes to receive your results can vary, typically only taking a few days.

You’ll usually receive the results during a follow-up appointment with your doctor or a call from their office to plan next steps. 

It’s essential to discuss with your doctor how they will communicate the results to you and if there’s any particular way you should prepare for the follow-up discussion.

Who should I contact if I have questions or concerns after my ultrasound?

If you have any questions or concerns following your ultrasound, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Your first point of contact should be the doctor who ordered the ultrasound. They are familiar with your medical history, and the reason for your ultrasound, making them best equipped to address your concerns. 

If your question is about the ultrasound study itself, or about scheduling or billing for the scan, then the Gateway imaging center where you had the ultrasound performed can also be a helpful resource. 

Your medical team is always there to support and guide you through each step of your abdominal ultrasound.

How to schedule your ultrasound scan with us

When you get your scan at one of our imaging centers, we’ll make sure you have access to affordable, high-quality medical imaging. 

Reach out to a Gateway imaging center near you, and schedule your ultrasound appointment, today.

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