Ultrasound of the liver may be done by itself or as part of an abdominal ultrasound in which all abdominal organs are examined. It is sometimes done in conjunction with computed tomography (a CT or CAT scan), especially if there is difficulty in obtaining the ultrasound images.
Unlike X-rays and CT scans, ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation. Ultrasound has no known harmful effects on the patient.
Ultrasound examinations are much more affordable than CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs). An ultrasound may cost about $200, whereas a CT scan may cost $2,000 or more.
Intravenous contrast is often used for CT scans. Ultrasound does not require contrast injections for visualizing the organs.
Reason for Examination
Ultrasound of the liver is often done for right-side upper abdominal pain. It may also be done if liver enzymes or cholesterol are elevated.
Solid and Cystic Structures
Ultrasound is used to differentiate between fluid (cystic) and solid components. For this reason, cysts are easily visualized. Fatty infiltration of the liver is also easily seen.