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What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a non-invasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. It involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound examinations do not use ionizing radiation, as used in X-rays. Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels. Conventional ultrasound displays the images in thin, flat sections of the body. Advancements in ultrasound technology include three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound that formats the sound wave data into 3D images. Four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound shows a 3D ultrasound in motion.

Before Your Exam

No special diet or preparation is required for this exam.

How is an Ultrasound performed?

For most ultrasound exams, the patient is positioned lying face-up on an examination table that can be tilted or adjusted. Typically, exams are completed within 30 minutes to an hour.

A clear, water-based gel is applied to the area of the body being studied to help the transducer make secure contact with the body and eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin that can block the sound waves from passing into the body.

The sonographer (ultrasound technologist) then presses the transducer firmly against the skin in various locations, sweeping over the area of interest or angling the sound beam from a farther location to better see an area of concern.

In some ultrasound studies, the transducer is attached to a probe and inserted into a natural opening in the body. These exams include:

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

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

After Your Exam

After examination is complete, the patient may be asked to dress and wait while the images are reviewed.

Results from the ultrasound exam will be sent to your ordering physician within 24 to 48 hours. Upon request, CDs or films can be provided following the exam.