What is ultrasound?
A device that uses sound waves to study internal structures and tissue. A hand held device called a transducer is used to transmit and receive echo signals when placed against the skin. Clear gel is applied to your skin to provide better contact for the transducer. This gel wipes off easily. Ultrasound imaging also is called sonography.
Is ultrasound painful?
Ultrasound is not painful. There may be feelings of discomfort if you have a prostate or transvaginal ultrasound because a thin probe will be inserted into the vagina or rectum.
Why is ultrasound useful?
It has a wide variety of uses, as it does not emit X-rays. It can image a growing fetus in the womb or it can show motion of blood in veins and arteries. It also is a widely used diagnostic tool for understanding abnormalities of the heart, abdomen and kidneys. Because ultrasound does not penetrate well through bone or air, it is difficult to assess lungs or bones.
What are different types and descriptions of ultrasound?
- Obstetric - used to determine size, anatomy and due date of an unborn child. It also surveys the position of the fetus and placenta. Exam length is about one hour.
- Pregnancy diagnosis - determines if the patient is pregnant and the gestational age. This exam may require a probe to be inserted into the vagina. Exam length is approximately 30 minutes.
- Prostate - used to evaluate the size of the prostate gland. A thin probe will be inserted into the rectum to better visualize the anatomy. Exam length is about 30 minutes.
- Breast - used to determine whether a lump is a cyst or solid mass. Exam length approximately 20 minutes.
- Abdomen - used to study the size and shape of internal organs. Detects any abnormal growth. About 30 minutes to perform the exam.
- Pelvis - evaluate uterine cavity. May require a thin probe to be inserted into the vagina. Used to study the ovaries and uterus. Exam length is approximately 30 minutes.
- Cardiac - studies the size and shape of the heart muscle. Evaluates competency of the heart valves and the condition of the heart walls. This exam takes about one hour to perform.
- Arterial/Venous study - to determine blood flow and look for blockages. Also studies competency of vein valves.
- Thoracentesis - used to localize an area of fluid collection to be drained, particularly in the lungs. This procedure takes about 30 minutes.
What is doppler ultrasound?
It is an ultrasound study of the arteries that measures the speed of the blood flow. It produces a graph that charts the systolic and diastolic pressure of a blood vessel.
How to Prepare for an Ultrasound
Each exam is different; therefore, each procedure calls for various preparations.
- Pelvic, pregnancy diagnosis or obstetric under 16 weeks gestation: You must have a full bladder. Drink 48 oz. of water one hour prior to appointment time. Please do not empty your bladder until after the exam is completed.
- Obstetric over 16 weeks gestation: no preparation.
- Abdomen, liver, gallbladder: Do not eat or drink anything six hours prior to exam time. No smoking or gum chewing.
- Appendix, renal, cardiac, testicular, breast: No preparation.
- Thyroid, carotid: No preparation.
- Arterial/venous: No preparation.
- Prostate: Laxative of your choice the night before the exam. Fleet enema one hour prior to exam. Patient may have a light breakfast.
- Prostate biopsy: Laxative of your choice the night before exam, no aspirin or aspirin-like medicine 10 days prior to exam. (Example: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, Aleve). Your doctor also will prescribe some antibiotics to take prior to the exam.
- All other biopsies: Nothing to eat or drink after midnight the night before the exam.
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