Ultrasound

In this Article

What are the Benefits?

An ultrasound is a way for your doctor to evaluate what may be happening inside your body without requiring any cuts or surgery.

Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation like x-ray imaging, so there is no risk of radiation exposure.

Ultrasound shows images in real-time. This can provide the doctor with added details about how the body is working. It can also be used to guide other procedures, such as positioning a needle during a biopsy.

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.

How is it Done or Administered?

An ultrasound is usually painless and does not use ionizing radiation like an x-ray. Instead, a device called a transducer (trans-DOO-suhr) 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 sound waves into your body. The sound waves 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 or movies of the area being studied.

When Will I Know the Results?

After the test, the pictures and information from your test are studied by a radiologist – a doctor who is specially trained to read ultrasound images. A report will be sent to your healthcare provider detailing 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 talk to you about them during a follow-up appointment. If the test was done because of an emergency, the results can be made available more quickly.

What are Follow-up Requirements and Options?

Your doctor will talk to you about any follow-up requirements, such as follow up appointments, or treatments based on any findings from the test.

What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound, or sonogram [san-oh-gram], is a test that uses sound waves to produce an image of the inside of the body. Ultrasound is used to look for disease or problems in the body’s internal organs and tissues. It can also be used to check the health and development of an unborn baby during pregnancy.

During the ultrasound test, the doctor or technician may:

  • Examine a growing baby in a pregnant woman
  • Track the movement of fluids through blood vessels or ducts
  • Look at the movement in a joint, such as the knee or elbow
  • Guide other diagnostic tests, such as biopsies and catheter placement
  • Diagnose heart conditions or look for damage after a heart attack

What are the Risks and/or Side Effects?

The level of risk depends on what type of ultrasound you are having. In general, ultrasounds are noninvasive (done outside the body) and have few or no risks. Ultrasounds that are done inside the body (for example, in an artery or your esophagus) can have more risks. Ask your healthcare provider about all the risks for your situation before your test.