Key Points about Abdominal Aneurysm Ultrasound (Abdominal Aortic Ultrasound)

  • An abdominal aneurysm ultrasound, also known as an abdominal aortic ultrasound), is a non-invasive test used to diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
  • Your doctor may recommend an abdominal ultrasound if you have signs of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. 
  • Before the test, your doctor will have you fast for eight to 12 hours to ensure the accuracy of the results.
  • The test will take approximately 30 minutes. If no abnormalities are found, you will likely not need additional testing. If an aneurysm is found, your doctor will discuss your next steps. You may need further testing or surgery. 

Overview

An abdominal aneurysm ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to take images of the aorta - the main blood vessel that leads away from the heart to detect an AAA.

An AAA is a weakened, bulging spot in the abdominal aorta. As the aortic aneurysm grows, it is more likely to rupture. 

Risk factors for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Risk factors can include:

  • Gender — men are more likely to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Age — people over 60 years old are more likely to develop an AAA
  • History of atherosclerosis — a thickening of the walls of your arteries
  • Family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • High blood pressure (systolic pressure of 140 to 159 millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg, and a diastolic pressure of 90 to 99 mm Hg)
  • An aneurysm in one of your other arteries
  • Chronic lung disease

Candidates for an abdominal aneurysm ultrasound

Your doctor may order an abdominal ultrasound if he or she suspects you are at risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

Additionally, a one-time abdominal aortic ultrasound screening is recommended for men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes during their lifetimes or have a family history of AAA.

An abdominal ultrasound may also be used to check for other diseases that affect your kidneys, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas.

An abdominal aneurysm ultrasound is not recommended for women. There may not be benefit from an abdominal ultrasound for men who have never smoked unless your doctor suspects you have an aneurysm.

Preparing for an abdominal aneurysm ultrasound

Your doctor will ask you to fast for eight to 12 hours before the test in preparation for an abdominal aortic ultrasound. 

Inform your doctor of the medications you are taking and if it is ok to continue taking them before the test.

Expectations during an abdominal aneurysm ultrasound

You will change into a hospital gown and remove jewelry before being instructed to lie on your back on an exam table.

A technician will apply warm gel to your abdomen and run a device called a transducer back and forth over the abdomen. The transducer will send signals to a computer, which will show your doctor how your blood is flowing through the structures in the abdomen.  

Duration of an abdominal aneurysm ultrasound and results

An abdominal aneurysm ultrasound takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Your doctor will schedule a follow-up visit to review your test results. If your test did not show any abnormalities, you will not need additional tests. If your doctor finds an aneurysm or other issue, you will likely need additional screening or surgery.