A non-invasive procedure that used high-frequency sound waves to assess different structures in the body.
Diagnostic ultrasound is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within your body. The images can provide valuable information for diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions.
Most ultrasound examinations are done using an ultrasound device outside your body, although some examinations involve placing a device inside your body.
Ultrasound is used for many reasons, including to:
- View the uterus and ovaries during pregnancy and monitor the developing baby’s health
- Diagnose gallbladder disease
- Evaluate blood flow
- Guide a needle for biopsy or tumor treatment
- Examine a breast lump
- Check your thyroid gland
- Detect genital and prostate problems
- Assess joint inflammation (synovitis)
- Evaluate metabolic bone disease
Types of Ultrasounds
Abdominal Ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound is a useful way of examining internal organs, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and bladder. Because these images are captured in real time, they can show movement of internal tissues and organs and enable physicians to see blood flow. This can help to diagnose a variety of conditions and to assess damage caused by illness.
Breast Ultrasound: This ultrasound test uses sound waves to see how well blood is flowing to areas in your breasts. This test is often used when a change has been seen on a mammogram, or when a change is felt, but does not show up on a mammogram. This ultrasound may be used if you have particularly dense breast tissue that a mammogram may not be able to see through the tissue. It may also be used if you are pregnant because mammography uses radiation, whereas ultrasound does not. Your healthcare provider may also use ultrasound to look at nearby lymph nodes, help guide a needle during a biopsy, or to remove fluid from a cyst.
Obstetric Ultrasound: Obstetric ultrasound refers to the specialized use of sound waves to visualize and determine the condition of a pregnant woman and her embryo or fetus. Obstetric ultrasound should be performed only when clinically indicated, such as to:
- establish the presence of a living embryo/fetus
- estimate the age of the pregnancy
- diagnose congenital abnormalities
- evaluate the position of the fetus
- evaluate the position of the placenta
- determine if there are multiple pregnancies
Pelvic Ultrasound: For women, pelvic ultrasound is most often used to examine the uterus and ovaries, and during pregnancy, to monitor the health and development of the embryo or fetus. Millions of expectant parents have seen the first “picture” of their unborn child thanks to pelvic ultrasound examinations of the uterus and fetus.
For men, a pelvic ultrasound usually focuses on the bladder and the prostate gland.
There are three methods of performing pelvic ultrasound: abdominal (transabdominal), vaginal (transvaginal, endovaginal) in women, and rectal (transrectal) in men. The same principles of high-frequency sound apply in each technique.
Vascular (Carotid & Abdominal Aorta) Ultrasound: Ultrasound of the carotid arterial system provides a fast, non-invasive means of identifying blockages of blood flow in the neck arteries to the brain that might produce a stroke or mini-stroke. Ultrasound of the abdominal aorta is primarily used to evaluate for an aneurysm, which is an abnormal enlargement of the aorta usually from atherosclerotic disease.
BEFORE THE TEST
There are different types of ultrasound tests. Some tests will require no preparation, some will require you to drink large amounts of liquid prior to the test, and others will require you to not eat or drink for hours before the test. Consult your physician for any specific instructions for your particular test.
Before your ultrasound begins, you may be asked to remove jewelry from the area being examined. You may also be asked to remove your clothing and wear a gown.
DURING THE TEST
You’ll be asked to lie on an examination table. Gel is applied to your skin over the area being examined. It helps prevent air pockets, which can block the sound waves that create the images. This water-based gel is easy to remove from skin and, if needed, clothing.
A trained technician (sonographer) presses a small, hand-held device (transducer) against the area being studied and moves it as needed to capture the images. The transducer sends sound waves into your body, collects the ones that bounce back and sends them to a computer, which creates the images.
Sometimes, ultrasounds are done inside your body. In this case, the transducer is attached to a probe that’s inserted into a natural opening in your body. Examples include:
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram: A transducer, inserted into your esophagus, obtains heart images. It’s usually done while you are sedated.
- Transrectal Ultrasound: This test creates images of the prostate by placing a special transducer into the rectum. Please click here for the information sheet.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: A special transducer is gently inserted into the vagina to get a quick look at the uterus and ovaries. Please click here for the information sheet.
Ultrasound is usually painless. However, you may experience mild discomfort as the sonographer guides the transducer over your body, especially if you’re required to have a full bladder, or inserts it into your body.
A typical ultrasound exam takes between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
AFTER THE TEST
Once test is completed, you may return to your normal activities.
Sources: Mayoclinic.org, Hopkinsmedicine.org
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Been twice now for ultrasounds for pregnancy. They were wonderful! Appointment was on time and the technician was fabulous with us and our children.
– WILL H.