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Ultrasound: Renal (Kidneys, Ureters, Bladder)

Medically reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD

What Is an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound scan is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create live images from the inside the body. Also called a sonogram or sonography, ultrasounds let doctors see the body’s soft tissues, which X-rays can’t do.

Doctors order ultrasounds for many reasons, such as to look for the causes of pain, swelling, and infection. Ultrasound scans are safe and painless.

What Is a Renal Ultrasound?

A renal (REE-nul) ultrasound uses sound waves to make images of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder.

During the scan, an ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the kidney area and images are recorded on a computer. The black-and-white images show the internal structure of the kidneys and related organs.

Why Are Renal Ultrasounds Done?

Doctors order renal ultrasounds when there's a concern about some types of kidney or bladder problems. Renal ultrasound tests can show:

Sometimes a child needs to have a full bladder for a renal ultrasound. In this case, the doctor will give you instructions on what to do.

What if I Have Questions?

If you have questions about the renal ultrasound or what the test results mean, talk to your doctor.

Medically reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: January 2022