An abdominal ultrasound is a medical imaging test that uses sound waves to see inside the belly area (abdomen). it is the preferred screening test for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. however, the test can be used to diagnose or rule out many other health conditions.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm, or aortic aneurysm, is an enlarged area at the bottom of the body’s main artery (aorta). Health care providers recommend an abdominal ultrasound to screen for an aortic aneurysm in men ages 65 to 75 who smoke or used to smoke. such a test is not recommended for people who have never smoked. but it may be done if you have symptoms or a family history of aortic aneurysm.
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why is it done
An abdominal ultrasound is done to view the blood vessels and organs in the abdominal area. Your healthcare provider may recommend this test if you have a condition that affects any of these body areas:
- blood vessels in the abdomen
For example, an abdominal ultrasound can help determine the cause of stomach pain or bloating. it can help detect kidney stones, liver disease, tumors, and many other conditions. your provider may recommend this test if you are at risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
detection of aortic aneurysms
An abdominal ultrasound is the most common test to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms. Screening means looking for the condition in people without symptoms. Early diagnosis helps you and your provider take steps to manage and treat the aneurysm. if an aortic aneurysm ruptures, the bleeding can quickly lead to death.
A single abdominal aortic ultrasound is recommended for men aged 65 to 75 years who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime.
Screening is also recommended for men age 60 and older who have or had a father or brother with an aortic aneurysm. otherwise, it is unclear whether men who have never smoked can benefit from such screening.
Routine ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms is not recommended for women.
There are no known risks. Abdominal ultrasound is a safe and painless procedure. however, you may have some temporary discomfort if your care provider presses on a sore or tender area.
how do you prepare
Your health care provider or the radiology department will give you specific instructions.
You should generally avoid food and drink for 8 to 12 hours before an abdominal ultrasound. this is called fasting. fasting helps prevent gas buildup in the belly area, which could affect results.
Ask your provider if it’s okay to drink water before the test. do not stop taking any medicine unless your provider tells you to.
what you can expect
before the procedure
Before the abdominal ultrasound, you may be asked to:
- Put on a hospital gown
- Remove jewelry
- Store valuables in a locker near the exam room
during the procedure
For an abdominal ultrasound, you lie on your back on an exam table. A trained health professional (sonographer) applies a special gel to the abdomen area. the gel works with the ultrasound device to provide better images.
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The provider gently presses the device against your abdomen, moving it back and forth. the device sends signals to a computer. the computer creates images that show how blood flows through the structures in the belly area.
An abdominal ultrasound exam takes about 30 minutes to complete.
after the procedure
You should be able to return to your usual activities immediately after an abdominal ultrasound.
After an abdominal ultrasound, your healthcare provider shares the results with you at a follow-up visit. sometimes the provider’s office calls with the results.
If the ultrasound did not show an aneurysm, you usually do not need additional tests to rule out an abdominal aneurysm. if the ultrasound was meant to rule out other health problems, you may still need additional tests.
If the test shows an aortic aneurysm or other health problem, you and your care provider will discuss a treatment plan. Treatment for an abdominal aortic aneurysm may include regular health checks (watchful waiting) or surgery.
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