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Liver ultrasound scan

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. An abdominal ultrasound scan shows up blood flow and changes in your tummy (abdomen), including abnormal growths.

Why you have it

You might have an ultrasound scan of your liver to see whether there is any sign of cancer there.

How you have an ultrasound scan

The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the microphone picks them up. The microphone links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen.

abdominal ultrasound

Ultrasound scans are completely painless. You usually have the scan in the hospital x-ray department by a sonographer. A sonographer is a trained professional who is specialised in ultrasound scanning.

Preparing for your scan

Check your appointment letter for any instructions about how to prepare for your scan.

You might need to stop eating for 6 hours beforehand. Let the scan team know if this will be a problem for any reason, for example if you are diabetic.

Take your medicines as normal unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

What happens

Before the scan

When you arrive at the clinic a staff member might ask you to take off your upper clothing and put on a hospital gown.

The sonographer will explain what to expect during the test beforehand. 

During the scan

You're taken to the ultrasound room or bay. The area is quite dark.

You lie on a couch for the test next to the ultrasound machine.

The sonographer puts a cold gel over your abdomen. Then they gently slide the handheld probe over your skin. The gel helps the sonographer get clear pictures on the screen.

You might feel a little pressure when the sonographer moves the probe over your abdomen. Tell them if it is uncomfortable.

The sonographer might ask you to change position a few times or hold your breath so they can get clear pictures.

They might also ask you to empty your bladder during the test so that they can scan it whilst empty. The sonographer will let you know if you need to do this.

You can have a family member or a friend with you. Just let the sonographer know that someone will be there with you.

Having a full bladder may make you feel uncomfortable and you’ll have the urge to go to the toilet.

What happens afterwards

You can eat and drink normally after the test. You can go straight home or back to work afterwards.

Possible risks

Ultrasound scans are a very safe procedure. It doesn’t involve radiation and there are usually no side effects.

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks at a follow up appointment.

Waiting for test results can be a worrying time. You can contact your specialist nurse if you’re finding it hard to cope. It can also help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Contact the doctor that arranged the test if you haven't heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Information and help