Knowledge of visceral and vascular anatomy is vital to any abdominal ultrasound examination. The anatomy is similar in most patients and the location and course of the major abdominal arteries and veins can serve as a roadmap with consistent vascular landmarks. Even so, the importance of recognizing the well-described normal variations of this vascular roadmap cannot be overstated. This highway of vessels defines the vascular supply of the major abdominal organs and also delineates visceral boundaries and specific anatomic regions. Any deviation from normal requires close scrutiny to determine if a change is a normal variation or one that is caused by some pathologic process. If disease changes the usual appearance of a structure, knowledge of normal anatomy will assist the examiner in determining the site and possible cause of the abnormality. Diagnostic accuracy is best achieved when visceral and vascular anatomy are correlated.
The following information is intended as a general overview of abdominal anatomy. As you read through this discussion, you should practice locating the organs and vessels using the indicated anatomic landmarks. But before we can start our journey through the abdomen, we have to be certain to choose the right ultrasound equipment and appropriate preparation and positioning of the patient for an abdominal sonographic examination.