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Preparing Your Child for an Abdominal Ultrasound: How to Get Ready and What to Expect

Radiology1Texas Children's Pediatric Radiology Department offers timely, comprehensive imaging procedures for pediatric patients and provides a variety of services and information to ensure that you and your child have the best possible experience during your visit. The idea of any medical procedure can be scary for parents and children, especially when they don’t know what to expect, which is why it is important to know how to properly prepare for the appointment with your child. A physician may request a pediatric ultrasound for a variety of reasons. In an ultrasound, a computer uses sound waves to make pictures of the structures within the body. The test is painless and there are no known side effects. An abdominal imaging request is most commonly associated with abnormal or frequent vomiting in children and infants, abdominal pains, swollen belly area, and traumatic abdominal injuries. Prior to the appointment, parents should familiarize themselves with the process. What to expect You and your child will go into a dimly lit room. Your child will lie on his or her back on the bed. Next to the bed is a large machine with a TV screen. The technologist, who will sit close to the bed, will put lotion on your child’s abdomen. He or she will hold a “transducer,” a camera that looks like a microphone, to the area. The technologist will move the transducer around to several different spots, sometimes holding it still to freeze the image. Your child may roll on the side or stomach for some of the pictures. It is important that your child lies very still. Do not let your child touch or play with the transducer during the scan. Most of the rooms also have a TV which is turned to appropriate child friendly stations. If the radiologist comes into the room, it does not mean that something is wrong. We may scan the patient ourselves to get a better look at a normal structure or clarify an image the sonographer has taken. Plus, if a patient is in pain and the sonographer's images don't find any pathology, we may come in to evaluate the patient and the site of the pain in person. Talking with your child Children are less anxious and cooperate better when they know what’s going to happen. What you tell your child about the ultrasound depends on his or her age. Tell your child what he or she will see, hear, and feel. You might let an older child read this information sheet. Ask your child questions to be sure he or she understands what you’ve said. Let your child ask questions, too. Preparing for the ultrasound

  • Restrict food and drink
    • Your child must not have anything to eat or drink, including water, before the ultrasound of the abdomen. How long your child must go without food or drink depends on his or her age. We schedule these cases for early-morning time slots. Therefore, most eight-hour NPO restrictions begin at midnight.
    • A child up to 12 months old should have nothing to eat or drink for 4 hours before the test.
    • A child 13 months or older should have nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours before the test.
  • Dress your child comfortably
    • Help your child choose clothes that are comfortable for him or her to lay down in.
  • What you might bring from home
    • A blanket or stuffed animal. A favorite item often helps distract a young or restless child during an ultrasound.
    • Games, books, or other quiet activities for waiting times. Help your child choose what to bring.
    • Juice or something to eat – your child might be hungry after the test. If your baby is bottle fed, please bring a bottle.

It is best to leave other children at home. If you need to bring other children with you, bring someone to take care of them while you are with the child who is having the ultrasound. How long it takes Plan on the entire visit lasting 1-1/2 hours. Time is needed to prepare your child for the test. Taking the pictures usually takes 30 to 45 minutes. A special doctor (radiologist) will look at them to decide if more pictures need to be taken. Sometimes unexpected things happen that put us behind schedule. If this happens, your child’s appointment may be delayed and take longer than we had planned. Be prepared. It’s best not to make plans that you can’t change. Your child might not be ready to leave in time for you to get to another appointment or pick up other children at school. After the ultrasound The technologist will not be able to tell you the results of the test, but will answer any questions you have regarding the ultrasound. Your child’s doctor will receive a written report in a few days and will reach out to you with the results of the ultrasound. To learn more about Texas Children's Pediatric Radiology Department, please visit here.

Dr. Martha M. Munden, Pediatric Radiology