All Medical Procedures

Although an abdominal ultrasound can be done to check for a number of conditions, it can be used to screen for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weakened, bulging spot in your abdominal aorta, the artery that runs through the middle of your abdomen and supplies blood to the lower half of your body.

An abdominal ultrasound can also be used to check for other diseases that affect your kidneys, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

An abdominal ultrasound to screen for an abdominal aortic aneurysm is recommended for men ages 65 to 75 who are current or former cigarette smokers. Having an abdominal ultrasound to screen for an aortic aneurysm isn't specifically recommended for men who have never smoked, nor women, unless your doctor suspects you may have an aneurysm.

A barium enema is an X-ray exam that can detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon). The procedure is also called a colon X-ray.

An enema is the injection of a liquid into your rectum through a small tube. In this case, the liquid contains a metallic substance (barium) that coats the lining of the colon. Normally, an X-ray produces a poor image of soft tissues, but the barium coating results in a relatively clear silhouette of the colon.

During a barium enema exam, air may be pumped into the colon. The air expands the colon and improves the quality of images. This is called an air-contrast (double-contrast) barium enema.

Before a barium enema, your doctor will instruct you to completely empty your colon.

Bilirubin testing checks for levels of bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin (bil-ih-ROO-bin), an orange-yellow pigment, is a waste product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin passes through the liver and eventually out of the body — mostly in feces, a small amount in urine.

Before reaching the liver, bilirubin is called unconjugated, meaning uncombined. In the liver, bilirubin combines with certain sugars to create a water-soluble form called conjugated bilirubin. Conjugated bilirubin passes out of the liver, and in the colon, it is converted back into the unconjugated form en route to being excreted from the body.

Most laboratories use a test that detects conjugated bilirubin, which is called direct. By subtracting the direct bilirubin from the amount of total bilirubin, an estimate of unconjugated bilirubin, called indirect, is obtained.

Higher than normal levels of direct or indirect bilirubin may indicate different types of liver problems. Occasionally, higher bilirubin levels may indicate an increased rate of destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis).

Capsule endoscopy is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera to take pictures of your digestive tract. The camera sits inside a vitamin-sized capsule that you swallow. As the capsule travels through your digestive tract, the camera takes thousands of pictures that are transmitted to a recorder you wear on a belt around your waist or over your shoulder.

Capsule endoscopy helps doctors see inside your small intestine — an area that isn't easily reached with conventional endoscopy. Capsule endoscopy can be used by adults and by children who can swallow the capsule. The procedure is usually started in a doctor's office.

A colonoscopy (koe-lun-OS-kuh-pee) is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum.

During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.

If necessary, polyps or other types of abnormal tissue can be removed through the scope during a colonoscopy. Tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken during a colonoscopy as well.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy (sig moi-DOS-kuh-pee) is an exam used to evaluate the lower part of the large intestine (colon). During a flexible sigmoidoscopy exam, a thin, flexible tube (sigmoidoscope) is inserted into the rectum.

A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the rectum and most of the sigmoid colon — about the last two feet (61 centimeters) of the large intestine. If necessary, tissue samples (biopsies) can be taken through the scope during a flexible sigmoidoscopy exam.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy doesn't allow the doctor to see the entire colon. As a result, any cancers or polyps farther into the colon can't be detected with flexible sigmoidoscopy alone.

A liver transplant is a surgical procedure to remove a diseased liver and replace it with a healthy liver from a donor. Most liver transplant operations use livers from deceased donors, though a liver may also come from a living donor.

The number of people waiting for new livers is much larger than the number of available livers, so liver transplant is reserved for people who are critically ill. Some people receive a liver transplant right away, while others spend many months waiting for a liver transplant.

Splenectomy is a surgical procedure to remove your spleen — an organ that sits under your rib cage on the left side of your abdomen. The spleen helps fight infection and filters unneeded material, such as old or damaged blood cells. Although your bone marrow produces most of your blood products, the spleen also produces red blood cells and certain types of white blood cells.

The most common reason for splenectomy is to treat a ruptured spleen, often caused by an abdominal injury. Splenectomy may be used to treat other conditions, including enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), some blood disorders, certain cancers, infection, and noncancerous cysts or tumors.

Splenectomy is most commonly performed using a tiny video camera and special surgical tools (laparoscopic splenectomy).

A tummy tuck — also known as abdominoplasty — is a cosmetic surgical procedure to improve the appearance of the abdomen.

During a tummy tuck, excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen. In most cases, the connective tissues in the abdomen are tightened with sutures as well. The remaining skin is then repositioned to create a more toned look.

You might choose to have a tummy tuck if you have skin that's accumulated around the area of your bellybutton and a weak lower abdominal wall. A tummy tuck can also boost your body image.

Virtual colonoscopy is a minimally invasive exam to screen for cancer of the large intestine (colon). Virtual colonoscopy requires the same pre-test bowel preparation as colonoscopy. But virtual colonoscopy doesn’t require sedation or inserting a scope into the colon.

During virtual colonoscopy, a CT scan produces hundreds of cross-sectional images of your abdominal organs. The images are combined and digitally manipulated to provide a detailed view of the inside of the colon and rectum.

Virtual colonoscopy is an alternative to colonoscopy, but the new test doesn't mean you'll never have another colonoscopy. If virtual colonoscopy shows abnormalities in your colon, your doctor will typically recommend colonoscopy to learn more.