Ultrasound imaging, also called sonography is a procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to view internal organs and produce a picture of the inside of the body. Ultrasound is usually a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. The long term effect of repeated ultrasound exposure is not fully known and therefore is recommended only when medically indicated.
Ultrasound imaging is based on sonar principles that are similar to that used by bats, ships and fishermen. As a sound wave travels through the body it produces echoes. By measuring these echo waves it is possible to determine distance, shape and size of objects inside. These images are then displayed as a real-time black and white picture on the monitor.
Ultrasound also has Doppler capabilities, which is a special technique that evaluates blood as it flows through a vessel. It can detect blood flow in the body’s major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck.
Ultrasound waves can pass easily through fluid and soft tissue, making it a useful tool when looking at organs such as a uterus during pregnancy, gallbladder, liver and heart. There are also limitations to ultrasound, it cannot pass through bone or air. Therefore it is difficult for ultrasound to evaluate areas around and including bone, stomach and intestines. Patients who are obese are also more difficult to image with ultrasound because body tissue weakens the sound wave as it passes through the body and deeper structures may not be well visualized.
Ultrasound exams help to diagnose a variety of conditions and assess organs following illness. Physicians use ultrasound to aid in diagnosing symptoms such as: pain, swelling and infection. Ultrasound is also utilized for diagnostic procedures that may detect abnormalities and conditions during pregnancy. Ultrasound is useful in examining many internal organs and vasculature in the body, including but not limited to the:
You should wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You will need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined.
You may be asked to wear a gown during some procedures.
Other preparation depends on the type of examination you will have. For some scans such as a liver or gallbladder ultrasound, you physician will instruct you not to eat or drink for 6-8 hours before the test. For other types of ultrasound (obstetric and pelvic)you may be asked to drink up to 48 oz of water and not to pass urine for a few hours before your exam so that your bladder is full when the scan begins. A full bladder helps improve the view of the uterus for optimal imaging. Please consult with your doctor as to what type of preparation you must take before your ultrasound examination.
Please arrive at the facility approximately 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. This will allow time for Registration to complete all of your paperwork.
Most ultrasounds are completed within 30 minutes to an hour.
For most ultrasound exams the patient is laying face-up on an examination table. Once you are positioned the sonographer will apply warm gel on your skin to achieve good contact, and then press the ultrasound transducer firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. Ultrasound waves are inaudible and cause no sensation. You may experience slight discomfort, especially in areas of tenderness, from the pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined.
When Doppler ultrasound is used to look at blood vessels, you may actually hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as the blood flow is being measured and evaluated.
Some ultrasound exams require a transducer that is attached to a probe to be inserted into an opening of the body and may produce some discomfort. These exams include:
A radiologist, who is a physician specially trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the ultrasound images and send a signed report to your referring physician. Your ultrasound results will be sent to your referring physician within approximately 24 business hours. Please contact your physician to discuss your ultrasound results. In some cases the radiologist may discuss preliminary results with you at the conclusion of your examination.