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Pediatric Renal Ultrasound

What is it?

A renal ultrasound is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to make images of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. This test does not involve any radiation.

During the examination, an ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the body and images of the kidneys and related organs are recorded. Physicians order renal ultrasounds when there’s a concern about certain types of kidney or bladder problems. Renal ultrasounds can show:

  • the size of kidneys
  • signs of injury to the kidneys
  • the presence of blockages or kidney stones
  • complications of a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • cysts or tumors


If your child is toilet trained, he or she should drink 12 ounces of water and hold bladder one hour before appointment.

Some younger children may be afraid of the machinery used for the ultrasound test. Explaining in simple terms how the renal ultrasound test will be conducted and why it’s being done can help ease your child’s fears. You can tell your child that the equipment takes pictures of his or her kidneys. Encourage your child to ask the sonographer questions and to try to relax during the procedure, as tense muscles can make it more difficult to get accurate results.

During the Exam

Parents are usually able to accompany their child to provide reassurance and support. The room is usually dark so the images can be seen clearly on the computer screen.

A sonographer will spread a clear, warm gel on your child’s abdomen over the kidney area. This gel helps with the transmission of the sound waves. The sonographer will then move a transducer over the gel. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves and a computer measures how the sound waves bounce back from the body. The computer changes those sound waves into images to be analyzed. The procedure generally takes less than 30 minutes.

During the procedure, your child may feel slight pressure on the abdomen as the transducer is moved over it. Your child will need to lie still so the sounds waves can reach the area effectively. The sonographer may ask your child to lie in different positions or hold his or her breath briefly. Babies might cry, especially if they are restrained, but this won’t interfere with the procedure. Feel free to bring a special toy, blanket, book or other belonging to provide comfort during the exam. Also consider bringing a snack or treat that you may give your child after the exam.