Renal Ultrasound
all information

Renal Ultrasound

(Ultrasound, Renal)

En Español (Spanish Version)


A test that uses sound waves to study the renal system, which includes the kidneys, bladder, and ureters

Parts of the Body Involved

  • Kidneys
  • Bladder
  • Ureters
  • Abdomen
  • Back

Reasons for Procedure

  • To look for changes in the bladder wall
  • To look for changes in the kidney size or structure
  • To detect a kidney stone, cyst, mass, or other obstruction in the kidney
  • To look for stones in the urinary tract
  • To look for changes in the ureters
  • To examine the kidneys before performing a renal biopsy (removal of tissue from the kidney for exam)
  • To examine the circulatory system of the kidneys (a Doppler ultrasound)

Urinary System with Stones

kidney stone and urinary system

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

Obesity can make this examination more difficult to perform and less accurate.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Your doctor will do a physical exam.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, such as sodas and seltzers.
  • You must have a full bladder for the test; do not empty your bladder until after the ultrasound.



Description of the Procedure

This procedure can be done at a doctor's office or hospital. You lie on a table and the doctor applies a sound-conducting jelly on your abdomen over your bladder and kidneys.

The ultrasound machine has a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which looks like a microphone or wand. The transducer is passed over the skin where the jelly was applied. The transducer sends sound waves into the body. The waves bounce off the internal organs and echo back to the transducer. The echoes are converted to images that are shown on a screen. The doctor examines the images on the screen. He may make a photograph for further assessment.

After Procedure

A radiologist examines the ultrasound image for abnormal masses or blockages.

How Long Will It Take?

30-45 minutes

Will It Hurt?


Possible Complications


Average Hospital Stay


Postoperative Care



If the doctor or radiologist detects an abnormal mass or obstruction, additional tests will be done to determine the exact problem and cause.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

There are usually no reported complications after this procedure.


National Institutes of Health

National Kidney Foundation


BC Health Guide

The Kidney Foundation of Canada


Imaging of the urinary tract. National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: Accessed June 18, 2008.

Last reviewed October 2007 by Daus Mahnke, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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