Ultrasound Q & A
What is an ultrasound?
Ultrasounds are safe, painless tools used to produce images of the inside of the body through sound waves. Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, uses a handheld transducer and gel applied directly to the skin over the area of the body to be scanned. High-frequency sound waves are directed through the body from the transducer and are amplified by the gel. The transducer records the sounds which bounce off of the organs and a computer uses the information to create an image on a monitor. Ultrasounds don’t use ionizing radiation like x-rays do, so there are no radiation concerns. Since ultrasound images are taken in real-time, they can also display the structures and movements of the internal organs and blood flowing through the vessels.
What are some common uses of an ultrasound?
Ultrasounds may help to diagnose a number of conditions and assess any damage done to the organs following an illness or injury. Ultrasounds can assess causes of symptoms including:
- signs of infection
Ultrasounds can display the:
- heart and blood vessels
- fetus, in pregnant patients
- thyroid and parathyroid glands
- brain, in infants
- hips, in infants
How should I prepare?
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing when going for an ultrasound exam. You may have to remove all clothing and jewelry so that certain body parts can be scanned thoroughly. You may also be asked to wear a gown during the ultrasound. Preparation for the ultrasound is based on what the doctor is looking for or what problems are suspected. For some scans, the doctor may tell you not to eat or drink for up to 12 hours before the appointment. For others, you may have to drink up to six glasses of water two hours before the ultrasound and avoid urinating so that the bladder is full when the exam is performed.