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Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

Expected Duration

Abdominal ultrasound can usually be done quickly and painlessly. As you lie on your back on an examination table, a technician or doctor squirts some clear jelly onto your lower abdomen. This jelly helps the ultrasound transducer slide around easily on your skin and helps create a seal between the transducer and your skin, reducing air pockets that can make the ultrasound picture less clear.

When the transducer is placed against your skin, an image of your abdominal organs appears on a video screen, and the technician or doctor moves the transducer back and forth across your abdomen to see specific organs from different views. It's helpful for you to mention any soreness during the test for example, if you're tender while the transducer pushes against a particular area, such as your gallbladder or appendix.

If a Doppler ultrasound is performed, you may also hear the pulse-like sound of blood rushing through the blood vessels as blood flow is evaluated.

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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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