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What is a Kidney Ultrasound?
A kidney ultrasound, also known as a renal ultrasound, is a diagnostic test that uses sound waves to create images of the kidneys. This non-invasive test is used to evaluate the size, shape, and location of the kidneys, as well as to detect any abnormalities or blockages in the urinary tract. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about and kidney scan.
What are the Kidneys?
The kidneys are two small, bean-shaped organs located in the lower back of the body, on either side of the spine. They are responsible for filtering waste and excess fluids from the blood, producing urine, and regulating the levels of various substances in the body. The kidneys also help maintain a balance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium, in the blood. They play a vital role in regulating blood pressure, producing red blood cells, and activating vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. The kidneys receive blood from the renal artery and return it to the body through the renal vein.
They are connected to the bladder by two thin tubes called ureters, which transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder for storage and eventual elimination from the body. The kidneys are essential for maintaining overall health and well-being, and any damage or dysfunction of the kidneys can have serious consequences on the body’s ability to function properly.
Why is a Kidney Ultrasound Performed?
A kidney ultrasound is performed to evaluate the structure and function of the kidneys. It can help detect a variety of conditions such as:
- Kidney stones
- Cysts or tumors
- Infection or inflammation of the kidneys
- Blockages in the urinary tract
- Enlarged kidneys
- Congenital abnormalities
- Kidney transplant evaluation
- Kidney Cancer
It can also be used to monitor the progress of kidney disease or to assess the effectiveness of treatment.
How is a Kidney Ultrasound Performed?
This is a simple and painless procedure that usually takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. During the scan ultrasound gel is applied to the skin over the kidneys. The gel helps transmit the sound waves and improve the quality of the images. A handheld device called a transducer is then placed on the skin and moved around to obtain images of the kidneys.
Click here to read more about what’s involved in an ultrasound
What are the Benefits of a Kidney Ultrasound?
- Non-invasive: No incisions or needles involved.
- No radiation: Unlike other imaging tests, such as X-rays and CT scans, ultrasound does not use radiation, which makes it a safer option.
- Accurate: Ultrasound is an accurate way to evaluate the kidneys and urinary tract, and it can detect abnormalities that may not be visible on other imaging tests.
- Fast: A fast procedure that can be completed in about 20 minutes.
- Cost-effective: It is generally less expensive than other imaging tests, making it an affordable option for many patients as a front line diagnostic tool.
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are hard, mineral deposits that form in the kidneys or urinary tract. They are made up of various substances, including calcium, oxalate, and uric acid, that can crystallize and clump together. Kidney stones can vary in size, from tiny grains to larger stones that can be several centimetres in diameter. They can also be smooth or jagged, and may cause no symptoms until they begin to move through the urinary tract.
What are the Risks of a Kidney Ultrasound?
As mentioned it is a safe procedure, and there are very few risks associated with it. The gel used during the exam may cause a mild skin irritation, but this is typically temporary and goes away on its own. In rare cases, a false-positive result, which means that an abnormality is detected even though there is no actual problem.
The main reason a kidney or renal scan is considered safe is the fact there is no radiation involved during the scan.
How do I prepare?
Typical preparations for a kidney scan is as follows:
- A comfortably full bladder is required for this scan – Please drink 0.5 litres of fluid approximately 30 minutes or so before your scheduled appointment and kindly try your best not to empty your bladder before the examination.
- You may maintain your normal medication regime.
- You can eat as normal.