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Appendix Ultrasound

What is appendix ultrasound?

Appendix ultrasound is a fast, safe, and noninvasive imaging technique that evaluates a child’s appendix using sound waves. This test might be ordered if a child is having abdominal pain and the radiologists want to determine if the symptoms are caused by appendicitis.

By using a special ultrasound probe, this test can visualize internal body structures without exposing the child to ionizing radiation (X-rays). Ultrasound has no known harmful side effects, and it is a fast, noninvasive way for doctors to evaluate soft tissues that don’t show up on standard X-ray exams. This technique is especially useful to visualize the appearance, size, consistency, and shape of internal organs and abnormalities.

The ultrasound probe, also called a transducer, sends out small pulses of high-frequency sound waves. When pressed against the skin, the transducer transmits the sound waves that bounce off structures in the body. The transducer picks up the rebounding sound waves, and, with the help of a computer, the characteristics of a structure can be determined.

If a child is having abdominal pain, especially in the lower right side, there is a chance that appendicitis is causing the pain. The appendix is a small, finger-like extension of the large intestine. If the appendix gets infected and inflamed, it can cause symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating

If a child is having these symptoms, an ultrasound might be recommended to rule out appendicitis as the cause.

Benefits

  • Appendix ultrasound is an inexpensive, fast, and noninvasive way to assess structures inside the abdomen, including the appendix.
  • If appendicitis is not the cause of pain, ultrasound may help detect other causes, such as kidney stones, gallstones, or abscesses.
  • Ultrasound does not expose the child to any ionizing radiation (X-rays).
  • Unlike MRI, ultrasound is safe in patients with any type of metal in their body, including implantable medical devices.
  • Ultrasound is very safe and has no known side effects.
  • Contrast agents are not used for this ultrasound exam.
  • Ultrasound can detect soft tissue abnormalities that cannot be seen with regular X-ray exams.

Risks

  • The use of diagnostic ultrasound has no known risks or harmful effects.
  • Appendix ultrasound is performed in an ARA imaging center, hospital, or medical center.
  • Your child may be asked to change into a gown.
  • You will be able to accompany your child during the entire exam.
  • A technologist will place the child on their back on an exam table. Your child may have to change position during the exam so the technologist can get a better view of the appendix.
  • A warm gel will be placed on the area to be examined. The gel creates a sealed contact between the skin and the ultrasound probe. This eliminates any air pockets that may interfere with imaging. The probe will be moved around to capture images from different locations.
  • The technologist or doctor performing the exam may have to apply pressure with the probe to the body part being examined. If the area is tender, the child might experience some discomfort.
  • In many cases, appendix ultrasound in performed on an emergency basis. If this is the case, no special preparation is required.
  • Otherwise, it might be required that your child not eat or drink anything for several hours before the exam.

To schedule a pediatric appendix ultrasound, please speak to your doctor and call our scheduling team at (512) 453-6100 or toll free at (800) 998-8214. A provider referral is required to make an appointment.

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to interpret radiological examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to the provider who referred you to ARA. Your health care provider will then share the results with you. Your report will also be available on the patient portal within 15 days.

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ARA and Coronavirus

In order to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus, we have made adjustments to our care processes to keep you safe. These include screening patients and employees, requiring masks, enhanced cleaning, limiting visitors to the clinics, and maintaining social distancing. Find out more on our Coronavirus Response page.

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