Abdominal Scan

(Purpose, Procedure & Risks)

What is an abdominal scan?

An abdominal scan is a type of ultrasound scan which involved creating a black and white image of the internal structures of the abdomen. This type of scan uses an ultrasound machine to produce an image. An ultrasound machine works by sending high-frequency soundwaves through the skin which then bounce off internal organs, to create an image which can be used to form a diagnosis.

Purpose of an abdominal scan?

Within the abdomen, there are several vital organs which can encounter some issues. The major organs looked at include:

  • Appendix
  • Bladder
  • Gall bladder
  • Large and small intestine
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Stomach

The purpose of the abdominal scan is to create an image of the internal structures of the abdomen and therefore will allow medical professionals to identify problems.

A doctor may advise you to have an abdominal ultrasound scan if you are experiencing one or more of a following:

  • Repeated vomiting
  • Swollen belly
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Abdominal pain

As well as identifying problems within the organs of the abdomen, an abdominal scan can also detect blood vessels, tissues and abnormal growths.

abdominal scan

What can be diagnosed from an abdominal scan?

Many diagnoses can be found from an abdominal scan, some being:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Abdominal growths
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cancer
  • Gall stones
  • Hernia
  • Inflammatory conditions like appendicitis
  • Kidney stones
  • Liver disease


Abdominal scan procedure

The abdominal scan procedure usually takes 30-45 minutes. Within the process, you will visit a radiology centre or department of a hospital, which specialises in scans. Before your scan you will be asked to get changed into a cloth gown that allows less restriction that is caused by normal clothes during the scan.

Once dressed in your gown, you will be directed to your scan room and told to lay down flat on an examination table. The room your scan is carried out in is usually dark so the images that are created can be seen as clearly as possible.

Firstly, the sonographer will apply a clear gel to your abdominal area and use a transducer to send the soundwaves through your skin in order to create the ultrasound images.

Ultrasound scan risks

The ultrasound scan has been deemed one of the safest scanning techniques available. Due to their use of soundwaves instead of the radiation other scans such as CT scans use, they do not have such an adverse effect on the body.

The minor effects of an ultrasound scan include a rise in temperature of surrounding tissues.