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    What does an ultrasound of the abdominal aorta show?

    Posted by Ravi Sohal on Thu, Apr 01, 2010

    Ultrasound tests use sound waves to create images of the internal organs. Abdominal aortic ultrasounds are usually ordered to evaluate the size of the aorta to look for aneurysms (enlargement). The aorta is the main artery from your heart that carries blood throughout your body - sort of like a main highway with many branches coming off of it. It is roughly divided into two parts:

    Thoracic aorta - in your chest, can be evaluated with CT and MRI

    Abdominal aorta  - in your abdomen, can be evaluated with US, CT, or MRI

    In the abdominal aorta picture to the right, the aorta is the red tubular structure. The magnified picture shows a normal aorta and one with an aneurysm.

    Over time your aorta can enlarge in size and form what is called an  abdominal aortic aneurysm. The walls of the aneurysm are weak and can rupture causing life threatening bleeding into your abdomen. Symptoms include a pulsing mass in the middle of your  abdomen, a bruit (noisy flow) heard using a stethoscope, pain or rectal bleeding, sudden loss of consciousness or cardiac arrest. Once the aneurysm gets to a certain size the risk of rupture becomes significant and the aneurysm is repaired.

    Like any other arteries in the body, the abdominal aorta can develop atherosclerosis which can cause aortic stenosis. Stenosis simply means narrowing. Significant stenosis can slow the flow of blood in the aorta impairing circulation to your legs for example. Some patients with significant atherosclerosis of the abdominal aorta may need to have a bypass surgery to restore adequate blood flow to the legs.  

    Your doctor's order may read "r/o aneurysm" or "pulsatile mass", "h/o atherosclerosis"

    (FYI "r/o" stands for rule out, and "h/o" for history of)

    Below are some common indications for abdominal aorta ultrasounds.

    •  Screening for aneurysm for patients with medical conditions such diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure  which increase the risk of developing an abdominal aorta aneurysm
    • Evaluate for an aneurysm if a pulsatile mass is felt on a physical exam
    • Known abdominal aortic aneurysm and the scan is being done to check for any change in size of the aneurysm
    • Evaluate the aorta because of a bruit (rushing, whistling noise) of the abdominal aorta heard during a physical exam

    Below is a brief outline of the procedure.

    1. After you sign in to the Radiology office, you'll be taken to the ultrasound room.
    2. An ultrasound technician will perform the test.
    3. Once you enter the room, you will lie down on a bed/gurney.
    4. The technologist will ask you to pull up or remove your shirt.
    5. He or she will place a a warmed gel solution over the skin of your abdomen.
    6. The technologist will use an ultrasound probe and glide it over the abdomen and take pictures.
    7. The technologist may ask the Radiologist doctor to review the scan before you leave.
    8. An official report is generated by the Radiologist in about 24-48 hours.

    If you are insured abdominal aortic ultrasounds are covered. However, for uninsured patients these tests can be quite expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere between $300 and $700 for this test.

    Have you had an abdominal aorta ultrasound? What was it like? Please leave your comments below:

    Tags: ,


    Since 2005 I have had numerous x-rays and MRI's taken, I have since been diagnosed with some disc problems in lower back as well vertabrae issues in my neck, also Fibromalgia and Osteoarthritis thru out my body. It is now 2011, my husband and I just moved to another State do to his Job. I got a copy of my medical records, it was then I saw that since 2005 the test also showed that i have Blockage located in the distal bifurcation of my aorta and illiac arteries. I was never told any of this. I have constant pain in my hips and legs, my legs are always purple in color as well as my nail beds and my ancles and the skin on my left ancle dies. i cannot walk for a period of time, i don't have the typical symptoms of the blockage you would have from this. 
    I just had a sonogram done last week, it showed no blockage at all, how is this possible as all the test before this shows blockage. Blockage doesn't just go away. My mother has had surgery 2 times on her legs for this same type of blockage plus 2 open heart surgeries, as well as my father. I have a brother who passed away at age of 41 of a massive heart attack, heart dr tells me my heart has no blockage at all, and not to worry about my legs. I am worried as I have huge family history and I am th eone in pain every day and concerned why all test show postive for 6 years then all of a sudden show nothing???? I a bit confused. What should I do from here, and who should I seek for another opinion? Please help if you have any answers for me. 
    From someone who is in alot of pain daily and is confused. =(

    posted @ Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:49 PM by Debbie Petrunyak

    I just had my first aortic ultrasound. I had no idea what to expect. It took about 10 minutes and was totally painless.

    posted @ Friday, May 20, 2011 8:21 AM by

    This procedure cost over $1,000.00 at Wellstar in Marietta. They will start calling you several days before the ultra and tell you how much you will owe them. They called me twice at work today. I am already very upset about this procedure - I don't appreciate being harassed. at work,

    posted @ Wednesday, August 03, 2011 3:36 PM by Donna Rogers

    I was told i have a bruit noise and need this ultrasound but i have been told you have a prep time of 12 to 18 with no food or water. Just curious did any of you do prep time?

    posted @ Monday, September 12, 2011 4:56 PM by Cindy Kesbey

    My doctor ordered this test for me. He told me that it should now be given to any male over 60 who is a current or former smoker. I bet that includes a large segment of our population.

    posted @ Wednesday, November 09, 2011 9:18 AM by bill nelson

    what size do you have aaa fixed i have one,, speacialist says five tnat seems big being female..

    posted @ Thursday, December 22, 2011 11:58 AM by sandra griess

    I had an aortic ultrasound done by the e.r. yesterday. It was very painfully for me because my middle upper abdomin is extremely tender. They said there was a small abnormality and did a c.t.with contrast and it came back normal. This kinda blew my trust in ultrasounds and I'm left feeling frustrated. Don't know what to do next.

    posted @ Saturday, May 10, 2014 5:14 PM by carolanne

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