ZocdocAnswersIs an ultrasound used to determine the cause of abdominal pain?

Question

Is an ultrasound used to determine the cause of abdominal pain?

What will my doctor use? I keep throwing up and my abdomen really hurts?

Answer

Abdominal pain can be caused by many causes. An ultrasound test is sometimes a used to evaluate the abdomen if the history and physical examination suggest a specific cause of pain which can be diagnosed with ultrasounds. An ultrasound is a non-invasive, relatively inexpensive and simple exam which is good at detecting some things but not others. For example: an ulcer in your stomach will not be seen with an ultrasound. An endoscopic (EGD) exam would be required to confirm the diagnosis of an ulcer. On the other hand, gallbladder disease such as inflammation of the gallbladder due to stones is usually best diagnosed with an ultrasound. The most important initial evaluation for the cause of your pain would be the history and physical examination. Next, laboratory work would have to be checked to see if certain markers are elevated (for example, elevated levels of amylase and lipase suggest a diagnosis of pancreatitis as the main cause of abdominal pain). Based on the pertinent positives and negatives of the history, physical exam and laboratory work, the next step of diagnostic imaging can be taken. Which imaging modality is used will be determined based on your symptoms, location, duration and lab work. For example: Right upper quadrant pain made worse with food suggests gallstone disease and an ultrasound would be the best test. On the other hand left lower quadrant pain would suggest a problem with the colon or small intestines, (or ovary if the patient is a female). In this case, a CT scan may be more useful. I hope this helps. You should consult your primary care physician, or gastroenterologist to evaluate the cause of your symptoms. Your physician will be able to order the appropriate diagnostic tests (including imaging) to find the source of your pain and vomiting.

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