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An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to obtain internal images of the body. In some of the ultrasound examinations, such as the abdominal and pelvic scans you require to prepare before the scan. In other scans however such as the breast, hernia and shoulder scans, no preparation is required. Our clients regularly ask us why they need to prepare.

The main ultrasound examinations that need preparation is the abdominal scan, urinary tract and the pelvic scan.


Can you eat or drink before an abdominal ultrasound?

 For the abdominal scan, you need to fast for at least four hours. In some Private Ultrasound clinics and in the NHS you require fasting for at least six hours.  There is widespread inaccurate information online regarding the length of fasting for an abdominal scan. For example, Healthline recommends 12 hours fasting which is nothing more than outdated,  cruel and unnecessary. 


Why do you have to fast for an ultrasound?

The main reason for fasting for the abdominal scan preparation is to give time for the gallbladder to fill up with bile and expand so it is visible during the ultrasound scan examination. The gallbladder is like a balloon and stores the bile. When you eat something fatty the gallbladder excretes the bile into the bowel to break down the fat so it collapses and therefore is difficult to be visualized on ultrasound.


Is fasting necessary for an ultrasound?

Depends on the kind of ultrasound scan. If the doctor was to exclude a gallbladder abnormality at least four hours fasting is necessary. If you fail to fast your gallbladder will be deflated, the sonographer will be able to clearly see inside the gallbladder lumen to exclude or confirmed gallstones. A deflated gallbladder will also raise the possibility of a functioning problem.
If however, the scan is to merely check your liver, let's say for example to exclude or confirm fatty liver or cirrhosis, failing to fast will not affect the diagnosis.


Can I drink water before an abdominal ultrasound?

Yes, you can drink as much water as you like. 


Is it OK to drink coffee before an ultrasound?

You can have black coffee or tea (no milk). You should, however, avoid fizzy drinks as these increase the amount of abdominal gas.


Preparation for the pelvic scan:

For the transabdominal pelvic scan, you required to have your bladder full. The reason for this is that as your bladder is anterior to your uterus and ovaries is being used as an acoustic window (a window to see through). When your bladder is full will push out of the way the bowel that can obscure your uterus and ovaries.

This is the same reason that you have to fill up your bladder during the early pregnancy scan.