What is an Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is a type of imaging technology that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs, tissue or blood flow within the body. It is often used to evaluate structures within the digestive, reproductive and urinary tract. Ultrasound has been a safe imaging tool for more than two decades and, unlike other medical imaging techniques, does not expose a patient to ionizing radiation.
Types of Ultrasound
An abdominal ultrasound visualizes at the gallbladder, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and spleen. It also includes a view of the abdominal aorta (the major blood vessel that carries blood to the lower half of the body).
For this exam you will be instructed to not have anything to eat or drink for six hours prior to the appointment.
You may take your prescribed medication with water.
Obstetrical/Fetal & Pelvic Ultrasound
An obstetrical ultrasound exam is performed when a patient is pregnant and looks at the uterus, ovaries, and fetus. The fetus is visualized and measurements are obtained to be sure that its size is appropriate for its "age."
A pelvic ultrasound in females looks primarily at the uterus and ovaries, but the bladder may also be visualized. In males, the pelvic ultrasound usually focuses on the bladder and the prostate gland.
For this exam you will be instructed to drink three 8 ounce glasses of water, finishing all the water one hour before your appointment time. The ultrasound will be performed with your bladder full to help produce the highest quality images. An endovaginal pelvic ultrasound may be performed after.
A vascular ultrasound exam looks at the blood vessels to see whether there are any areas of narrowing or blockage. The vessels most frequently examined are in the neck, arms, and legs. For this exam no specific preparation is necessary.
Other Types of Ultrasounds
Ultrasound may also be used to examine the breasts, kidneys, scrotum and thyroid glands.
What to Expect During an Ultrasound Exam
When you report for your exam, you may be asked to wear a gown. This is done primarily to protect your clothes from the ultrasound gel that will be applied to the skin overlying the area to be examined.
You will be asked to lie on an examination table next to the ultrasound scanner. Although the machine may appear complex to you, it will be operated by a skilled and experienced sonographer who has been specially educated and trained in the use of ultrasound examination equipment. After the gel is applied, a hand-held instrument called a transducer will be guided slowly across your skin.
The procedure is painless with no short or long term side effects. It is also quick, with most ultrasound studies usually completed in less than 30 minutes.
How Will You Learn About Your Results?
The ultrasound technologist will not give you the test results directly, as the images still need to be reviewed by a radiologist. After reviewing the study, the radiologist will send an official report to your physician, who can then discuss the results with you.