Ultrasound imaging, also called sonography, is a method of obtaining diagnostic images from inside the human body through the use of high frequency sound waves. Ultrasound is used as a diagnostic tool that can assist doctors with making recommendations for further treatment. Ultrasounds are an extremely safe, non-invasive method, and are a widely available, very common diagnostic imaging tool.

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Common uses of Ultrasound

  • Viewing an unborn fetus.
  • Examining many of the body’s internal organs, including the heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder.
  • Show movement of internal tissues and organs, enable physicians to see blood flow and heart valve functions.
  • Used to guide procedures such as needle biopsies.
  • Image the breast and to guide biopsy of breast cancer.
  • Evaluate superficial structures, such as the thyroid gland and scrotum (testicles).

Preparation for Ultrasound

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Depending on the type of ultrasound exam you have, you may be asked:
    • Not to eat or drink for up to 12 hours before your appointment, or
    • Drink up to six glasses of water two hours prior to your exam and avoid urinating. This will ensure a full bladder when the exam begins.
    • Your specific instructions will be given to you before the day of your exam

What should I expect during this exam?

The examination usually takes less than 30 minutes. After being positioned on the exam table, a clear gel is applied in the area being examined. This helps the transducer make contact with the skin. The technologist firmly presses the transducer against the skin and moves it back and forth to image the area of interest.

Generally, the technologist is able to review the ultrasound images in real-time or, when the examination is complete and the gel is wiped off, you may be asked to dress and wait while the ultrasound images are reviewed, either on film or monitor.

What will I experience during the exam?

Most ultrasound exams are painless. The gel applied to your skin may be a bit cold and there may be varying degrees of discomfort and pressure as the technologist guides the transducer over the area. Some exams have specific requirements which will be given to you before the exam. These requirements may have their own form of discomfort, such as exams that require you to have a full bladder.

When will I see my results?

How results are interpreted vary by exam type. Typically, a radiologist will interpret the ultrasound results and send them to your primary care physician, who will go over the ultrasound results with you. However, in some minor cases, the radiologist can discuss the ultrasound results at the conclusion of your exam. In some instances, a follow-up appointment may be necessary to do further testing or to go over your ultrasound exam results.


For more information on this topic, please visit www.radiologyinfo.org