Ultrasound

What is General Ultrasound Imaging?

Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce visual images of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (as used in X-rays). As ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as the movement of flowing blood vessels.

US.jpgWhat are some common uses of the procedure?

Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce visual images of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (as used in X-rays). As ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as the movement of flowing blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is an effective way of examining the structure of many of the body's internal organs, such as the: heart and blood vessels, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, eyes, thyroid/parathyroid glands and the reproductive organs. Ultrasound imaging can also be used to detect an unborn child (fetus).

How should I prepare?

Patients should dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothing for the exam. They may be asked to remove all of their clothing and jewelry as concerns the area to be examined. A gown is generally issued for the patient’s privacy and comfort.

Depending on the type of examination to be performed, specific preparation instructions are given to the patient. Frequently, it may be necessary to abstain from eating or drinking for a pre-determined amount of time (generally 12 hours) prior to the exam or a patient may be asked to consume several glasses of water hours before the exam (without urinating). This request may be temporarily uncomfortable for the patient, but it is done to ensure optimal scan results.

What does the equipment look like?

Ultrasound scanners feature consoles containing a computer and electronics, a video display screen and a transducer that is used to scan the body and blood vessels. The transducer is a small hand-held device (resembling a microphone), attached to the scanner by a cord. The transducer sends out high-frequency sound waves into the body and then transmits the returning echoes bouncing off the tissues in the body. The ultrasound image is immediately visible to the technician on a nearby video display screen that resembles a computer or television monitor.

How is the procedure performed?

For most ultrasound exams, the patient is positioned lying face-up on an examination table that can be adjusted in several directions. A clear, water-based gel is applied to the area of the body being studied. This gel makes it easier to move the transducer over the surface of the body and eliminates air pockets creating a secure connection between the transducer and the skin. The sonographer (ultrasound technologist or radiologist) firmly presses the transducer against the skin moving it with sweeping movements over the area of interest until the desired image is visible on the screen.

In most cases, the sonographer or radiologist has the ability to review the ultrasound images in real-time and the patients may not need to remain after the procedure. There are occasions, however, when a patient may be asked to wait until a final determination can be made.

Internal ultrasound examinations require the technician to insert the transducer (which is attached to a probe) into a natural opening in the body. These internal exams include:

Transrectal ultrasound: the transducer probe is inserted into a man's rectum to view the prostate.

Transvaginal ultrasound: the transducer probe is inserted into a woman's vagina to view the uterus and ovaries.

 

Most ultrasound examinations are completed within 30 minutes to one hour.

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