1. What is an ultrasound?
An ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of your internal organs that can be viewed on a screen.
2. Why is it done?
Ultrasounds are done for a variety of reasons, such as to evaluate a fetus, evaluate the scrotum and pelvic organs, assess your gallbladder and much more. However, ultrasound is not effective at examining parts of the body that have gas or bone.
3. What are the risks?
Diagnostic ultrasound is a safe procedure that uses low-power sound waves. However, ultrasound is a medical procedure and should only be utilized prudently by highly trained and skilled individuals. Higher power sound waves are often used for treatment purposes to heat and even destroy some types of tissue or tumors.
4. How should I prepare?
How you prepare for an ultrasound depends on which area of your body is being evaluated. Some ultrasound exams require no preparation, while others require that you forego food or liquids for up to eight hours, and still others may require you to consume a great deal of water shortly before your exam and avoid urinating until after the exam. For more specific guidelines for your particular exam please look under Exam Preparation Guidelines. You will find many common exams listed there, along with the specific preparation instructions for each exam. You also will receive specific instructions for your particular exam prior to your exam date.
5. What should I expect?
Prior to the start of your exam the technologist will explain the procedure to you. Depending on what area of your body is being examined, you may be asked to adjust or remove part or all of your clothing. You will be fully covered with sheets for your comfort and privacy.
During your ultrasound exam, you will lie on an examination table. One of our technologists called a sonographer will press a small hand-held device called a transducer to your skin over the area of your body being examined. Prior to the exam your technologist will place a small amount of warm gel on your skin to help eliminate the formation of air pockets between the transducer and your body (which can interfere with your images).
Ultrasound is usually a painless procedure. However, you may experience some discomfort as the sonographer guides the transducer over your body, especially if you're required to have a full bladder. A typical ultrasound exam takes from 30 minutes to an hour. Some specific exams evaluating major vessels require blood pressure cuffs to be placed and inflated on your limbs. For some patients this type of exam can be uncomfortable.
Though the majority of ultrasound exams are performed with a transducer on your skin, some ultrasounds are done inside your body (invasive ultrasounds). For these exams, the transducer or probe is sheathed with a protective covering, then inserted into a natural opening in your body. For example:
Transvaginal Ultrasound - after emptying the bladder, the transducer is inserted into a woman's vagina to view her uterus and ovaries.
6. Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
One of our radiologists will analyze the images from your ultrasound and then report any findings to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you and recommend any further actions.