An ultrasound allows doctors to view images of the organs and soft tissues inside your body. Using sound waves, an ultrasound provides a real-time picture of your organs.
This better allows medical professionals to diagnose conditions and determine underlying causes of problems you may be experiencing.
While ultrasounds are most commonly associated with pregnancy, the test is also used for other purposes, including providing pictures of your abdominal area.
A gallbladder ultrasound is a noninvasive and typically painless examination used to diagnose conditions related to the gallbladder. Unlike X-ray, ultrasound does not use radiation.
The gallbladder is located under the liver on the right side of the abdomen. This pear-shaped organ stores bile, which is a digestive enzyme the liver creates and uses to break down fat.
Gallbladder ultrasounds are used to diagnose a number of conditions. Your doctor may prescribe the procedure to test for gallstones, which are hardened deposits in bile that can cause nausea and abdominal pain along with back and shoulder pain.
Another condition potentially requiring a gallbladder ultrasound is cholecystitis, where the gallbladder becomes inflamed or infected. This often results from gallstones obstructing a tube that moves bile from the gallbladder.
Other conditions a gallbladder ultrasound is conducted for include:
- gallbladder cancer
- gallbladder empyema
- gallbladder polyps
- porcelain gallbladder
- gallbladder perforation
- upper right abdominal pain of unknown reason
Your doctor will provide specific preparation instructions. It is generally recommended you wear comfortable clothing to the exam, though you may be asked to remove your clothing and wear a hospital examination gown.
Recommended food intake differs depending on the area of your body being tested. For a gallbladder ultrasound, your doctor may request you eat a fat-free meal the day before the test and then fast for 8 to 12 hours leading up to the exam.
The technician performing the test will likely have you lie down face-up. They will apply a gel to your abdomen that prevents air pockets from forming between the transducer and the skin.
The transducer sends and receives sound waves that reveal details such as the size and appearance of organs.
The technician will move the transducer back and forth across your abdomen until the images are captured and ready to be interpreted. The test is usually painless and typically lasts less than 30 minutes.
There are factors that can influence the results of your ultrasound such as obesity and excess gas in your intestines. If the results are unclear from the gallbladder ultrasound, your doctor may recommend additional testing such as a CT scan or an MRI.
There is no recovery time for a gallbladder ultrasound. You can continue normal activities after the exam.
The images from the procedure will be interpreted by a radiologist and reported to your doctor. Your doctor will review the results with you at your next appointment, which is usually set up at the same time your ultrasound appointment was set.
Your doctor will order a gallbladder ultrasound if they need more information to make a proper diagnosis of any gallbladder-related issues that you may be experiencing.
It is a noninvasive, typically painless test that will help your doctor determine the proper treatment options for you.