An ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique that transmits sound waves into your body and processes the waves that reflect off body structures to create images or video of the inner structures. Abdominal aortic ultrasound is used to image the aorta, the main artery of the heart, as it passes down into the abdomen.
Abdominal aortic ultrasound is indicated to diagnose an aortic abdominal aneurysm, a condition where the walls of the abdominal aorta weaken causing swelling or bulging in the aorta. Aortic abdominal aneurysms need to be diagnosed before they rupture, which is an emergency condition. An abdominal aortic diameter of more than 3 cm is considered an aneurysm. Abdominal aorta screening is recommended in men over 60 with a family history of heart disease or smoking. Following diagnosis, you may need to be monitored with periodic abdominal aortic ultrasounds, to assess the need for repair.
Before an abdominal ultrasound you are advised to fast for 8 to 12 hours. You will lie face up on a table. A lubricating jelly is applied on your abdomen and a device known as a transducer is glided over the gelled area. The transducer transmits the sound waves which will be used to create images on a monitor. Once imaging is complete, the gel is cleaned off. The procedure takes about 30 minutes and you are free to continue with your regular activities afterwards. There are usually no complications or risks associated with abdominal aortic ultrasound.