What is an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound, also known as sonography, is a non-invasive procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to record live images inside your body. The process is done by a trained health professional using a transducer that transmits high-frequency sounds into your body, which are then converted to electrical impulses that produce moving images displayed on a screen.

Why is an Ultrasound Performed? 

There are a number of reasons why someone might need an ultrasound. For example, it might be needed to:

  • Evaluate their pregnancy and view the images of a fetus in the womb.
  • Diagnose a heart condition or problems with the liver, thyroid, gallbladder, kidneys, or pelvis.
  • Check for infection in the body's internal organs.
  • Assess the origin of discomfort.
  • Guide the radiologist in performing a biopsy.
  • Evaluate joint inflammation.
  • Detect the speed and direction of blood flow.

What are the Different Types of Ultrasound?

There are several different types of ultrasound, depending on the body part scanned and the reason. At SDMI, we offer the following ultrasounds:

Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound examines the organs and structures inside your abdomen. The ultrasound evaluates the liver, intestines, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, bile duct, and abdominal aorta.

Your doctor uses this ultrasound to:

  • Diagnose the cause of any pain in your abdomen.
  • Check kidney stones, gallstones, blood clots, or liver disease.
  • Assess the blood flow to the abdominal organs.
Patient getting abdominal ultrasound

OB Ultrasound

An OB ultrasound happens during a woman's pregnancy to produce pictures of the fetus within the woman's uterus. Other uses for the OB ultrasound are:

  • Estimating the gestational age of the fetus and its due date.
  • Examining the health of the fetus.
  • Determining if there are multiple pregnancies.
  • Evaluating the position of the fetus.
  • Checking the amniotic fluid.
  • Checking for congenital disabilities.
  • Observing the movement of the unborn baby.
Pregnant woman receiving OB ultrasound

Scrotal Ultrasound

This ultrasound gives detailed images of a male's scrotum, testicles, and surrounding tissues. The test:

  • Identifies sources of swelling.
  • Checks for lumps.
  • Checks the location for undescended testes. 
  • Determine the cause of infertility.
  • Diagnose trauma in the scrotal area. 
  • Reveal if a mass in the scrotum is a cyst or solid, or evaluate testicular torsion.

Transvaginal Ultrasound

The transvaginal ultrasound examines a woman's cervix, ovaries, pelvic area, fallopian tube, and uterus. It will:

  • Show any abnormality in the pelvic area that could be a disease symptom. 
  • Check an intrauterine device's position.
  • Monitor a baby’s growth.
  • Diagnose fibroid tumors. 
  • Diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. 
  • Evaluate the cause of infertility. 
  • Evaluate abnormal uterine bleeding.

Extremity Ultrasound

An extremity ultrasound is done on patients to determine if they have a blood clot in their arms or legs.

Pelvic Ultrasound

A pelvic ultrasound checks the reproductive and urinary systems. The ultrasound provides images of the pelvis and lower abdomen area.

The ultrasound can:

  • Diagnose pelvic pain and menstrual complications.
  • Diagnose infertility. 
  • Check blood clots in the fallopian tube.
  • Detect uterine anomalies and ovarian cysts.
  • Detect bladder tumors.
  • Identify disorders in the urinary bladder.
  • Evaluate pelvic pain.

Renal Ultrasound

Medical providers use renal ultrasounds to assess your kidneys and bladder. They’re also used to evaluate the blood flow to the kidneys. The ultrasound detects tumors, cysts, fluid collection, obstruction, and infection around the kidney.

Soft Tissue Ultrasound

This is an ultrasound done to diagnose any lumps, infections, or cysts beneath your skin.

Thyroid Ultrasound

Thyroid ultrasounds create pictures of the thyroid, which is in your neck. The test shows if you have a thyroid nodule and can diagnose the origin of a lump in your neck. The ultrasound also improves accuracy during biopsies.

Spine Ultrasound

The spine ultrasound creates images that help to assess the spine, cord structure, stability, and function. It also helps in providing guidance during therapeutic intervention.

How Do You Prepare for an Ultrasound?

Your ultrasound preparation depends on the type of test you will have. Some tests require preparation, while others do not. For example, scrotal, spine, transvaginal, extremity, soft tissue, and thyroid ultrasounds don’t typically require specific preparation.

For an abdominal ultrasound, you may be required to fast for about eight hours before your test. Fasting ensures the examined area is free from food and creates a clear image during the ultrasound.

Before a renal ultrasound, your provider will ask you to drink water and not empty your bladder. Drinking water enlarges the bladder, enabling the surrounding area to be easily examined.

Obstetric and pelvis ultrasounds work best if you have a light meal 1.5 hours before the exam and drink water. You should also not visit the restroom to empty your bladder.

What to Expect During an Ultrasound

Prior to your ultrasound, you will be asked to remove your jewelry and glasses, if you’re wearing any. You’ll then change into a hospital gown. The sonographer will apply a gel to the examined area. The gel prevents air pockets that block the sound waves that create images. They will then press the transducer against the studied area to create images.

What are the Risks of an Ultrasound?

Ultrasounds have no known side effects on humans. However, they have a number of advantages:

  • The ultrasound procedure is non-invasive.
  • The patient does not experience pain during the exam.
  • Ultrasound imaging is safe as it doesn’t use radiation.
  • Ultrasounds give clear images of your organs.
  • Ultrasounds provide real-time imaging.

What Happens After an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound test can take anywhere between thirty minutes to one hour. The radiologist will then analyze the images and help to treat potential conditions. After everything is done, you can resume your normal activities.

At SDMI, you can get a copy of your electronic results via the patient portal. Ready to schedule your appointment? Right this way!

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