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Abdominal Ultrasound

A procedure used to examine the organs in the abdomen. An ultrasound transducer (probe) is pressed against the abdomen. High-energy sound waves bounce off tissues and create echoes. The echoes are sent to a computer, which makes a picture called a sonogram.

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(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

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Evidence reviews

Spinal Injury: Assessment and Initial Management

The scope of this guideline is the assessment, imaging and early management of spinal injury and does not address rehabilitation. It is important to recognise that early management is intrinsically connected to rehabilitation and some later complications may be avoided with changes in early care. Early and ongoing collaborative multidisciplinary care across a trauma network is vital in ensuring that the patient with a spinal injury receives the best possible care.

Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression: Diagnosis and Management of Patients at Risk of or with Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression

It is difficult to know what the true incidence of metastatic spinal cord compression (MSCC) is in England and Wales because the cases are not systematically recorded. However, evidence from an audit carried out in Scotland between 1997 and 1999 and from a published study from Ontario, Canada, suggests that the incidence may be up to 80 cases per million population per year. This would mean around 4000 cases per year in England and Wales or more than 100 cases per cancer network per year.

Low Back Pain and Sciatica in Over 16s: Assessment and Management

This guideline covers the assessment and management of low back pain and sciatica in adults over the age of 16 years.

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Summaries for consumers

Using ultrasound to aid diagnosis of patients with a 'blunt' injury to the abdomen

Many people admitted to hospital after an injury have 'blunt' (not penetrating) damage to the abdomen. Doctors treating these patients need to know whether the organs within the abdomen have been injured. Ultrasound scans are believed to help diagnose the patient's condition. In this review, the authors looked for studies that compared death rates in patients with an abdominal injury where ultrasound was used to aid diagnosis with death rates where no ultrasound was used. They also looked for evidence that ultrasound use could reduce the need to carry out other more complex and more expensive diagnostic tests. However, very few trials have been done and the authors concluded that there is insufficient evidence to justify the use of ultrasound as part of the diagnosis of patients with abdominal injury. Given this degree of uncertainty, it is probably justified to ask doctors on duty for a confirmatory CT scan in patients who have sustained an injury with a high chance of major trauma (that is, head and brain injury, cervical spine fracture, thoraco‐abdominal pelvic trauma, and other injuries).

Ultrasonography versus computed tomography scan for endoleak detection after endoluminal abdominal aortic aneurysm repair

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a localised swelling or widening of a major vessel that carries blood to the abdomen (tummy), pelvis, and legs. People with AAA are at risk from sudden death due to AAA rupture (bursting). Once detected, intervention (treatment) is recommended once the AAA is bigger than about 5 cm in diameter. Most repairs are now performed using a new vessel lining inside the aneurysm guided by x‐ray control (endovascular aneurysm repair or EVAR).

Ultrasound scan for confirmation of gastric tube placement

Each year approximately one million people receive a tube feeding (gastric tube) in the US. Gastric tubes are commonly used for giving drugs and nutrition directly into the gastrointestinal tract (tube that digests food) for people who are unable to swallow. Feeding via a tube that is misplaced in the trachea (wind pipe) can result in severe pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Therefore, confirmation of tube placement in the stomach after tube insertion is important. Gastric tubes are also used to reduce the pressure of the stomach after providing breathing assistance through masks, which is mainly used in resuscitation. Medical ultrasound is one of the diagnostic imaging techniques using sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. Recent studies suggest that ultrasound provides good diagnostic accuracy in the confirmation of appropriate tube placement. Hence, ultrasound could provide a promising alternative to X‐rays in confirming tube placement, especially where X‐ray facilities are unavailable or difficult to access.

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Terms to know

Diagnostic Ultrasound (Ultrasonography)
A procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to look at tissues and organs inside the body. The sound waves make echoes that form pictures of the tissues and organs on a computer screen.
A computer picture of areas inside the body created by high-energy sound waves. The sound waves are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture on a computer screen.
Ultrasound Transducer (Ultrasound Probe)
A device that produces sound waves that bounce off body tissues and make echoes. The transducer also receives the echoes and sends them to a computer that uses them to create a picture called a sonogram.
Ultrasound Waves (High-Frequency Sound Waves)
Sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper audible limit of human hearing.

More about Abdominal Ultrasound

Photo of an adult

Also called: Transabdominal ultrasound

Other terms to know: See all 4
Diagnostic Ultrasound (Ultrasonography), Sonogram, Ultrasound Transducer (Ultrasound Probe)

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