What is an Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to produce images of organs inside the body without using x-rays or surgery. For this test, a machine produces sound waves which are directed at certain parts of the body through a "transducer", which is a device that looks like a microphone. These sound waves will come in contact with tissue within the body and bounce back like an echo. The echo is transmitted back to a recording machine which records the results on film and on a TV screen. Different kinds of tissue produce different echos. The waves that are recorded from muscle tissue are different from those produced by bone or blood tissue.
Will the test hurt?
No, the transducer is held in the sonographer's or physician's hand and passed over the areas that are being examined. You will neither feel nor hear the sound waves produced by the machine.
Does this take the place of x-ray?
No, some organs, such as the stomach, require x-ray examination. There are other questions about your body functions which can best be answered by ultrasound, especially when soft tissue organs or blood vessels are concerned.
What can be tested or studied with ultrasound?
Most soft tissue organs can be studied with ultrasound. The kidneys and liver can be studied for presence of tumors or cysts. The gall bladder can be checked for gall stones. Blood vessels in the abdomen, extremities and neck can also be examined for presence of swelling or blockage. One of the most well know uses of ultrasound is during pregnancy. It is often used to monitor the development, position and number of babies present in the mother's uterus.
How do I get ready for my ultrasound?
Certain ultrasound examinations require special preparation.
Upper Abdominal Ultrasound: You should not eat after midnight. You may have a small amount of water, tea, or black coffee (no cream or sugar) the morning of the test. Do not drink any carbonated beverages before the test. Pelvic Ultrasound: You may eat and drink before the test, but you should NOT empty your bladder before coming for the test.
All other ultrasound studies: no special preparation is required.
How is this procedure actually done?
You will be asked to lie in whatever position (back, side or stomach) that will give the best results. A gel-like substance will be applied to the skin over the area being examined to ensure better contact with the transducer. You will be instructed at each step by the physician or sonographer performing the test.
What happens after the test?
The examination will be interpreted by the radiologist and a copy of the test results will be sent to your physician, who will discuss the results with you