Gastroenterologist (Pediatric) Questions Gastroenterologist

My son needs to have a kidney ultrasound. What should we expect?

My 10 year old son is scheduled to have an ultrasound of his kidneys. What needs to be done in preparation of this test and how can I make it easier for him?

2 Answers

A kidney ultrasound is noninvasive and should not hurt at all. He just needs to remain still to acquire good pictures. They will place some warm gel on his abdomen to help obtain the pictures. Should last about 15-20 minutes
The most important thing for an ultrasound of the kidneys and the urinary tract is a full bladder. I therefore recommend to drink a lot of water. There is sometimes confusion because of issues with gas in the bowel and visibility of the kidneys from the side. Indeed, gas reflects the ultrasound waves and makes it more difficult to see especially the lower urinary tract. Sometimes, the radiology centre therefore asks that the patient be fasting, however, this is in contradiction to the need for a full bladder. It is fine to drink water for a kidney ultrasound. I would recommend to avoid foods like beans, lentils, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and other vegetables as well as foods containing fructose, a natural sugar found in artichokes, onions, pears, wheat, and some soft drinks. Also, avoid lactose, the natural sugar found in milk and milk products. Avoid these foods that make you gassy for the entire day before the scan.
Ultrasound does not hurt. Most kids are quite curious to see into their own belly and do not need anything special. Based on your question, I suspect that your son may have some difficulties or may be anxious. You should explain that some gel needs to be put on his tummy and his back so that there is no air between the ultrasound transducer and the skin. A good radiology centre that does ultrasound in children regularly will have the gel heated so that it does not feel cold. Explain to him that this gel is harmless. Explain that this procedure will not hurt and that he can look inside his tummy. He will likely also have to be prone to see the kidneys from the back. If he does not want to watch his own organs on the screen, you may want to bring a game on a mobile device for distraction. He will have to lie still and cooperate, otherwise it will be very difficult to perform the procedure. Make sure that you bring a bottle of water and let him drink while you are driving to the appointment. Try to avoid that he pees before the appointment. Hope this helps,

Guido Filler, MD, PhD, FRCPC
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