Ultrasound

1 What is an Ultrasound?

Also known as sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, diagnostic ultrasound is an imaging method that makes use of high-frequency waves to produce images of the structures in your body.

The images are an important part and proving important information which can be used in forming a diagnosis and treating a number of diseases and conditions.

Most ultrasound examination is done with a sonar device outside your body, though some examinations of this kind involve placing a device inside your body.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Ultrasound can be used for a number of reasons, some of which include:

  • Viewing the uterus and ovaries of a pregnant woman and make an assessment of her fetus.
  • Diagnosis of gallbladder disease.
  • Make an evaluation of blood flow in vessels.
  • Guide a needle for biopsy or tumor treatment.
  • Evaluating a breast lump.
  • Checking for certain cancers.
  • Checking a thyroid gland.
  • Revealing any genital or prostate abnormalities.

3 Potential Risks

Diagnostic ultrasound is a safe procedure that makes use of low-power sound waves.

There are no known risks associated with this procedure. Although ultrasound is a known valuable tool, it has limitations.

Sound does not properly traverse though air or bone, this makes ultrasound ineffective at imaging the parts of your body that are hidden in bone or have gas in them.

In order to view these areas, your doctor may order other imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans or X-rays.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

Most ultrasound exams do not require any preparation, with a few exceptions:

For some ultrasound exams, such as for the gallbladder, your doctor may ask you not to eat or drink for up to six hours before the exam.

Other ultrasound exams, such as of the pelvis, may require a full bladder, so your doctor may ask you to drink up to six glasses of water, two hours before the exam and not urinate until the exam is over.

When scheduling your ultrasound, ask your doctor specific instructions for our exam.

5 What to Expect

Here’s what you can expect before, during, and after your ultrasound procedure.

You may be required to remove jewelry and some of your clothing, change into a gown and lie on an examination table before the ultrasound can be performed.

The gel is then applied to your skin to keep any pockets that the block the formation of sound waves.

A trained technician known as a sonographer presses a small, hand-held device (transducer), about the size of a bar of soap, against your skin over the area being examined, moving it as necessary to capture the image.

The transducer sends out waves into your body, collects sound waves that bounce back and sends them to a computer, where the image is created.

Some ultrasounds can be done inside the body. In this case, a transducer is attached to a probe that is inserted into a natural opening in your body.

Examples of these types of exams include:

  • Transesophageal echocardiogram. A transducer is inserted into your esophagus, usually with sedation to obtain heart images.
  • Transrectal ultrasound. A transducer is inserted into a man's rectum to view his prostate.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound. A transducer is inserted into a woman's vagina to view her uterus and ovaries.

Ultrasound, in most cases, is painless. However, you may experience mild discomfort as the sonographer guides the transducer over your body, especially if you are required to have a full bladder.

A typical ultrasound usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour.

6 Procedure Results

A physician trained to interpret your ultrasound results (radiologist) analyzes the images and sends a report to your doctor.

Your doctor will then share the results with you. You should be able to return to your normal activities after an ultrasound.

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