Everything You Need to Know About Renal Ultrasounds
A renal ultrasound is an ultrasound of the kidney. It can provide insight into your kidney health and clarify what the best treatment options are for your health journey. In this blog, we’ll explore renal ultrasounds in depth and answer frequently asked questions about the procedure.
What is a Renal Ultrasound?
While one of the most common uses of ultrasound is to observe fetal growth in pregnant women, they can also be used to identify problems with specific organs. A renal ultrasound, or kidney ultrasound, is a commonly used method to observe kidney function.
Renal ultrasounds are non-invasive, painless, easy, and unlike an X-Ray, an ultrasound uses no radiation, making it a completely safe procedure.
What Does a Renal Ultrasound Show?
A kidney ultrasound can show several useful things. If you’ve been having any health issues relating to your kidneys, an ultrasound might be ordered to reveal the following:
How is a Renal Ultrasound Done?
An ultrasound is a medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to take live images of organs and tissue inside your body. You can think of an ultrasound as an X-ray for your body’s soft tissues.
The ultrasound machine sends sound waves toward your kidneys; those sound waves are then recorded and translated into a visual feed, which is then displayed on a computer for analysis.
What Happens During the Renal Ultrasound Procedure?
The renal ultrasound procedure is very simple and safe. Before it begins, you may be asked to undress and change into a medical gown, as this will reduce the chance that any clothing or objects you have with you interfere with the ultrasound machine.
Next, you’ll lie on your stomach and your provider will apply a gel to your skin on the area around your kidneys. The sound waves that an ultrasound machine produces struggle to move directly through the air, so the gel acts as a conductor of the sound waves. The gel can sometimes leave your skin feeling oily, sticky, or dry, although these side effects are generally harmless.
Then, the provider will run the ultrasound transducer, which looks vaguely like a remote control, across your body. The transducer produces the soundwaves that then bounce off tissues—including your kidneys.
Finally, the reflection of soundwaves off your kidneys will be translated into a visual feed and displayed on a computer.
Renal Ultrasound Prep Tips
There’s typically very little you need to do to prep for a renal ultrasound. Furthermore, unlike other medical procedures that limit your food or drink intake ahead of time, most renal ultrasounds don’t require you to alter your diet or stop taking medication.
The main renal ultrasound prep tip is to ensure you drink enough water—typically around a quart—before the procedure. This helps ensure that you receive quality images of your kidneys and can also help assess your bladder’s volume.
Your nephrologist, physician, or ultrasound provider may have ultrasound prep tips specific to your health, so be sure to consult with them prior to your appointment.
Renal Ultrasound FAQs
A renal ultrasound is an incredible procedure. To address as much as we can about kidney ultrasounds, we’ve answered a few additional common questions here.
What’s the Difference Between a Renal Ultrasound and a Renal Sonogram?
As far as the average patient is concerned, there’s no difference between a renal ultrasound and a renal sonogram. Technically speaking, a kidney ultrasound refers to the entire ultrasound procedure—that is, using high-frequency soundwaves to create images of soft tissues.
A sonogram, however, only refers to the images produced by the ultrasound process. So, you have an ultrasound done, and you look at the sonogram.
How Long Does a Renal Ultrasound Take?
A renal ultrasound typically takes about half an hour but can be shorter or longer depending on the patient. However, ultrasounds are rarely lengthy procedures.
What Other Procedures Can Observe the Kidneys?
An ultrasound isn’t the only method of observing the kidneys. Other effective methods include:
Turn to Milwaukee Nephrologists for Specialized Kidney Care
If you have questions about your kidney health and think an ultrasound could provide answers, turn to Milwaukee Nephrologists, the Milwaukee area’s kidney specialists.
Milwaukee Nephrologists is a network of experts and doctors that are board-certified in nephrology and have chosen a focus that provides a wide array of sub-specialization. If you or a loved one are in southeast Wisconsin and suffer from kidney disease, we're here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.