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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

Abdominal ultrasound is most useful in viewing and evaluating the following organs:

  • abdominal aorta and other blood vessels in the abdomen

  • gallbladder

  • kidneys

  • liver

  • pancreas

  • spleen

Using an abdominal ultrasound, a doctor can detect gallstones, check the liver for cancers, examine the kidneys for cancers or for blockages in the flow of urine, measure the size of the spleen or the width of the aorta (the body's largest artery), and look for fluid around the abdominal organs.

Ultrasound waves do not travel well through air or gas, so abdominal ultrasound is not useful in examining the intestines. Ultrasound can also be difficult to conduct on patients who are severely overweight or obese. Sound waves weaken as they travel through the outer tissues of the body, and may not reach the organs in a person with excess body mass.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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