What is an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to see what may be happening inside your body. It is sometimes called a sonogram.

What is it Used For?

Ultrasound is used to look for disease or dysfunction in the body’s internal organs and tissues. During the test, the doctor or technician may:

  • Track the movement of fluids through blood vessels or ducts
  • Examine a growing baby in a pregnant woman
  • Analyze movement in a joint
  • Guide other diagnostic tests, such as a needle biopsy or help in a catheter placement
  • Diagnose heart conditions or look for damage after a heart attack

How is it Done?

An ultrasound is usually painless and does not use ionizing radiation like an x-ray. Instead, a device called a transducer is moved over the part of your body that needs to be examined. A slippery gel is used on the skin to help the transducer move easily over the area. The transducer sends soundwaves into your body. The soundwaves bounce off of your organs, tissues, and fluids and are sent back to the transducer. The transducer sends that information to a computer that creates pictures of the area being studied.

How do I Prepare?

In most cases, you don’t need to do anything special to prepare for an ultrasound. However, your doctor may give you specific instructions about eating and drinking or going to the bathroom in the hours before the procedure. Wear loose, comfortable clothing to the exam. You may be asked to wear a gown.

When Will I Know The Results?

After the test, the pictures and information from your test are read by a radiologist – a doctor who is specially trained to read ultrasound images. The radiologist will tell your doctor what, if anything, may be of concern.

It might take from one to three days to get your test results. Your doctor or nurse will usually call you with the results, or discuss them with you during a follow-up appointment.

Clinical Trials

Visit the "Imaging" section of the Intermountain "Clinical Research" page.

Support and Resources

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This medical information is provided by Intermountain Healthcare. It has not been developed to replace medical advice provided by your health care provider.

Last review date: March 2017