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  • Ultrasound

    Using Sound Waves for Imaging

    What is Ultrasound?

    Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within the body. The high-frequency sound waves are concentrated into a thin beam and directed into the body with a transducer, which is a small hand-held wand that the technologist uses to perform the examination. The sound waves reflect off internal structures, and the returning echoes are received by the transducer and then processed by a computer to produce real-time moving images. Ultrasound is commonly used to evaluate the abdominal and pelvic organs, breasts, thyroid gland, and testes, and well as blood flow in arteries and veins.

    What Should I Expect?

    You will be positioned on an exam table and a clear gel will be applied to your skin. The gel is used to eliminate air bubbles between the transducer and your body, since the sound waves travel very poorly through air. The transducer is pressed against the skin and moved back and forth to visualize the area of interest.

    Ultrasound does not use radiation and is thus a very safe imaging technique. It is also painless, though you may experience some discomfort from the pressure applied to the transducer, especially if you are required to have a full bladder for your exam. The examination usually takes from 15 to 30 minutes, after which you will be able to return to your normal activities.

    How Should I Prepare?

    For many exams no preparation is needed. However, if your abdomen is being evaluated, you may be instructed not to eat or drink for 3 hours before your test. If your pelvis is being evaluated, you will also be asked to drink 32 ounces of water one and a half hours before your test and to avoid urinating, so that your bladder is full during the exam. You should wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing, and you may be asked to change into a hospital gown.  Gallbladder, pancreas and liver exams will require a eight hours fast prior to your scheduled exam time.

    How Do I Get the Results?

    After your study is over, the images will be evaluated by one of our board-certified radiologists with expertise in ultrasound imaging. A final report will be sent to your doctor, who can then discuss the results with you in detail.

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