Primary Children's Hospital

(801) 662-1000Map100 Mario Capecchi Dr.Salt Lake City, UT 84113

An ultrasound is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to make images of the inside of the body. During the examination, an ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the body and images are displayed on a monitor and recorded into a computer. The ultrasound images show the internal structures of the body, and will provide your doctor with valuable information to help diagnose and treat a variety of disease conditions.

Ultrasound is a very useful tool for imaging children. It requires no radiation and can be used to effectively visualize many areas of the body, some of which include:

  • Abdomen
  • Brain
  • Hips (under the age of 4 months) 
  • Kidneys and bladder 
  • Pelvis
  • Spine (under the age of 4 months) 
  • Major blood vessels

Ultrasounds can also be used to guide for procedures such as needle biopsies or catheter insertions to help ensure accurate placement of the needle or the catheter.

Special instructions and preps for your child's exam

Preparation for an ultrasound depends on which part of the body will be imaged. Some studies require no special preparation, while others may require your child to stop eating 6 to 8 hours prior to the exam.

The room is usually dark so the images can be seen clearly on the computer screen. A technologist (sonographer) trained in ultrasound imaging will spread a clear, warm gel on the skin. This gel helps with the transmission of the sound waves.
The technologist will then rub a small wand (transducer) over the gel. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves and a computer measures how the sound waves bounce back from the body. The computer converts the sound waves into images.

Sometimes a doctor will come in at the end of the exam to meet your child and review the images. You will be able to stay with your child during the procedure. The ultrasound usually takes less than 30 minutes.

Ultrasounds are usually painless. Your child may feel a slight pressure as the transducer is moved over the body, and the gel may feel wet. If your child is experiencing pain in a specific area, the ultrasound technologist may need to apply some direct pressure in the area of pain in order to see this anatomy more clearly. It is important for your child to lie still during the procedure so the sound waves can reach the area effectively. The technologist may ask your child to lie in different positions or hold his or her breath briefly.

The ultrasound images will be viewed and interpreted by a radiologist who specializes in reading images of infants and children. The radiologist will promptly send a report to your doctor, who will discuss and explain the results of your child’s test with you. In an emergency, the results of the ultrasound can be available quickly. Otherwise, they are usually available from your child’s doctor in 2 to 3 days. Results cannot be given to the patient or family by the sonographer during or after the test. In most cases the radiologist will come into the exam room to review the images at the end of the study. If there are serious or unexpected findings, your child’s doctor will be notified and a radiologist will speak with you before you leave the department.

No risks are associated with an ultrasound. Unlike x-rays, no radiation is required.

Some younger children may be afraid of the machinery used for the ultrasound. Explaining in simple terms how the ultrasound will be conducted and why it's being done can help ease these fears. You may bring your child’s favorite comfort item such as a blanket or stuffed animal.

You can tell your child that the equipment takes pictures of the inside of the body, and encourage him or her to ask the technologist questions. Ask your child to try to relax during the procedure, as tense muscles can make it more difficult to get accurate results.

If you have questions about the ultrasound, please speak with your doctor. You can also talk to our Child Life Specialist or the ultrasound technologist before the exam.

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