Abdominal ultrasound

Scanning is a quick and easy test which tells us about the layout and structure of the organs in the tummy (abdomen).

Reasons for having this test

Your doctor will ask for an ultrasound scan if they want to check on one or more of the following:

  • the liver
  • the pancreas
  • the gall bladder
  • the bile drainage system
  • the spleen
  • the kidneys
  • the tubes running from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters)
  • the bladder
  • the womb (uterus)
  • the organs which produce the eggs (ovaries)

The scan is not usually helpful with showing up problems in the bowel.

There are many conditions where an abdominal ultrasound scan can help us find out more about what is going on. Stones in the gall-bladder or bile duct and stones in the kidneys, ureters and bladders often show up well.

An obvious use, which many of us become involved with at one time or another, is detecting pregnancy, and assessing how far on the pregnancy is. Ultrasound can also show up some of the abnormalities that rarely occur in pregnancy, and even give us a good idea of the sex of the baby.


If you are having an ultrasound scan to look at your womb or bladder, you will be asked to turn up for the test with a full bladder. This shows up the bladder better, but also pushes up the other organs in the pelvis to make them more easily seen.

The probe will be pressed gently against your tummy (abdominal wall) with some jelly to improve the contact. It is moved backwards and forwards, and a picture comes up on a screen. The doctor or radiographer may not feel able to tell you everything they see, but will often point out the major “landmarks” as they perform the scan. (They often feel that your doctor should be the one to give you the full results, as he or she knows all the details of your case.)


If you are having a scan to confirm and detect the stage of a pregnancy, you are usually given the opportunity of keeping a video or picture of the scan. Otherwise, although the person doing the scan may give you an idea that all is well if it is, the scan will be reported by a specialist, and the doctor who requested the test will get a copy of the report.

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