What is an Ultrasound?

Diagnostic ultrasound, or sonography, is an imaging technique that uses sound waves to create images of structures within the body.

It offers detailed visualization of soft tissues that may not be visible on X-ray images. It is commonly used in diagnosing unexplained pain, swelling, and infections. Furthermore, ultrasound aids in guiding needle biopsies and assessing conditions associated with blood flow. Moreover, it is the preferred imaging technique for monitoring the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Ultrasound imaging does not use ionizing radiation and has no known adverse effects.

Who performs ultrasound?

Ultrasound scans are typically conducted by trained medical professionals known as “sonographers” or “ultrasound technicians.” These individuals are specially trained to operate ultrasound equipment and perform ultrasound examinations. However, the actual interpretation of the ultrasound images and the diagnosis is usually carried out by radiologists or other medical doctors who are trained in medical imaging.

Why is it done?

Ultrasound is used for many reasons.

  1. Pregnancy monitoring: Visualizing the developing baby’s health.
  2. Gallbladder disease diagnosis: Identifying and assessing conditions affecting the gallbladder.
  3. Blood flow evaluation: Examining and detecting abnormalities or blockages in blood vessels.
  4. Breast lump examination: Assisting in evaluating breast lumps and distinguishing between benign and potentially malignant growths.
  5. Thyroid gland assessment: Examining the thyroid gland to identify nodules or abnormalities.
  6. Genital and prostate issue detection: Detecting and evaluating problems related to reproductive organs.
  7. Joint inflammation assessment: Evaluating inflammation in the joints, aiding in diagnosing and managing conditions like arthritis.
  8. Metabolic bone disease evaluation: Assisting in diagnosing metabolic bone diseases and providing information on bone health and density.


Preparation before procedure

While most ultrasound exams typically do not require any preparation, there are a few exceptions:

  • For certain scans like a gallbladder ultrasound, the doctor may instruct the patient to fast (not eat or drink) for a specific duration before the exam.
  • In the case of a pelvic ultrasound, a full bladder may be necessary. The doctor will provide instructions on the amount of water to drink before the exam. It is essential to urinate once the examination is completed.
  • The patient may be asked to remove jewelry during ultrasound.

During procedure

Ultrasound exams are painless and typically take 30 minutes to an hour to complete. Depending on the area being examined, the patient may be asked to change into a gown and assume different positions. The sonographer may provide instructions regarding breath-holding or minor adjustments to optimize image quality.

During an ultrasound exam, a sonographer applies a gel on the skin over the area of interest. They then use a handheld device called a transducer, which emits and receives sound waves to capture images. The transducer is moved across the skin, and the sound waves create real-time images on a monitor.

In some instances, ultrasounds may be conducted internally by inserting a probe attached to the transducer into a natural body opening. Here are some examples:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound: A specific transducer is gently inserted into the vagina to examine the uterus and ovaries.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram: This procedure involves inserting a transducer into the esophagus to obtain heart images. It is typically performed under sedation.
  • Transrectal ultrasound: By placing a specialized transducer into the rectum, this test generates images of the prostate.

After completing the ultrasound examination, a radiologist, who specializes in interpreting imaging studies, will analyze the images and generate a report, which will be sent to the doctor for discussion of the results.

The patient can typically resume normal activities without delay or restrictions following an ultrasound.


Select your Location

Please select your nearest location from the list below