What Is a Renal Ultrasound?

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  • Written By: Valerie Goldberg
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 January 2019
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An ultrasound uses inaudible sound waves to capture pictures of internal organs. A renal ultrasound is used specifically to obtain images of a person's kidneys. A doctor might order a renal ultrasound if a person is having chronic urinary problems, is suspected of having kidney stones or to see whether a kidney tumor is present.

One benefit of this kind of ultrasound is that it is not an invasive procedure, so patients who might already be in pain will not have to experience any further discomfort. Patients are encouraged to drink only water on the morning of their ultrasound and should specifically avoid drinking soda. An ultrasound on the renal system must be performed on a person with a full bladder for the the images to be as accurate as possible.

The procedure is performed by a trained technician. A patient will need to expose his or her stomach so that the technician can squirt some gel onto the area. The test administrator will then run a probe over the the area to capture the needed images. An ultrasound typically takes 45 minutes or less to perform. The procedure is not invasive, so patients are free to urinate after the ultrasound is over and can go on with their daily routine.


A doctor will schedule a meeting with the patient to go over the results. The sonographer who performed the test is not authorized to discuss the results with the patient. Depending on the findings in the images, a doctor might be able to make a diagnosis of a condition, or more tests might be needed.

A patient who is diagnosed with kidney stones might need additional procedures if the stones will not pass out of the body naturally. One available treatment is shockwave therapy, in which a doctor can break down the kidney stones to make them smaller. As a last resort, there also are surgeries available to remove the stone.

When a kidney cyst or tumor is spotted in a renal ultrasound image, a doctor might decide to do a biopsy to find out whether the lump is cancerous or benign. Biopsying a kidney usually requires a short hospital stay and some time off work. A patient might be in some pain after the procedure, and the doctor likely will prescribe short-term narcotics so that the patient can find relief. If the lump turns out to be cancerous, the doctor will work with the patient to find the best type of cancer treatment available.


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Post 2

My uncle had a renal ultrasound after his doctor found blood in his urine. They discovered a benign cyst on one of his kidneys, along with a large kidney stone. He said the renal ultrasound preparation was a challenge, since he practically lived on soda and other sugary beverages. In his case, the kidney stone had to be removed surgically, so they also addressed the cyst at the same time.

Post 1

I had a renal ultrasound performed when my doctor suspected kidney stones. I think the worst part of the procedure was having to hold back on urination until the test was over. The renal kidney ultrasound itself wasn't that bad, and the results came back quickly. It turned out I did have two small stones in one kidney, and I passed them without a problem a few days later.

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