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Two Views of Ultrasounds

The experience of getting an Ultrasound is presented in two views.

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In words:

Why is getting an Ultrasound like?

An ultrasound, also called a sonography, uses sound waves to develop ultrasound images from inside of the body. The procedure is not risky, as it uses no radiation. The procedure is also generally painless.

What should I expect before an Ultrasound?

You should prepare by wearing comfortable clothing that is easily removable. You may be asked to remove all clothing and jewelry, as well as possibly asked to wear a gown during the procedure.

Preparation prior to the exam will be different depending on the type of ultrasound examination you are having done.

Some ultrasounds require you not to eat or drink up to 12 hours prior to the examination. Others may request that you have a full bladder prior to the examination. Necessary medications may be taken with minimal amount of water. Your physician may have other instructions for you to prepare before the examination. If you have questions, be sure to ask prior to the exam as well.

What is the experience like during an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound technician or sonographer is trained specially to accurately perform an ultrasound examination.

During most ultrasound examinations, the ultrasound technician or sonographer will have you lay on your back on an examination table. You may be asked to turn onto your side, or occasionally on your stomach, in order to produce a better image.

After being positioned on the table, the technician will apply a warm water based gel to the area of your body being studied. Gel is applied to your skin in order to keep air pockets that can block the sound waves from forming. (Read more about this here.)

The instrument used during an ultrasound is called a transducer. The transducer is placed on your body, over the gel and moved back and forth to capture the images. The transducer emits high-frequency sound and records the echoes, which determines the size, shape, and consistency of soft tissues and organs. This instrument resembles a handheld microphone. Some examinations will require a different type of transducer.

Depending on what type of ultrasound you are having done, the experience can be different. Most ultrasounds are completed where the transducer is placed on the surface of the skin. Other ultrasounds include inserting a special transducer into one of the body’s natural openings in order to create a better image.

  • During a transvaginal ultrasound, the transducer is inserted into a woman’s vagina to view the uterus and ovaries.
  • During a transrectal ultrasound, the transducer is inserted into a man’s rectum to view the prostate.
  • During a transesophageal echocardiogram, the transducer is inserted into the esophagus to view the heart.

The transducer sends sound waves and receives echoing waves to develop ultrasound images of inside the body, which is shown in real time on a computer screen.

A Doppler is a type of ultrasound, which creates images of blood flow through blood vessels. The same type of transducer would be used in the Doppler sonography as a standard ultrasound.

Ultrasound examinations are painless. Examinations that require an inserted transducer can cause some minor discomfort. A standard ultrasound generally takes up to 30 minutes to complete.

What should I expect after an Ultrasound?

After a quality image is captured during the ultrasound, the ultrasound technician or sonographer will wipe off the gel from your skin. Once the procedure is completed, if you had to undress or put on a gown, you will be asked to step into an area to change back into your clothes. The entire procedure for a standard ultrasound generally takes up to 30 minutes to complete. Once your ultrasound is done, you are free to leave and go back to your day as normal.

Next, the radiologist or physician will analyze and interpret the images to check for any abnormalities. They will send the signed report to your primary care physician or the physician who requested the examination. Your physician will then share the results with you.

Ultrasound images can help diagnose or detect certain diseases, cancers, or other conditions. They can also be used for the treatment process of various diseases, cancers, or conditions. Follow-up exams and appointments may be required depending on the results of the ultrasound.

If a clear diagnosis is made based on your ultrasound, your physician may begin treatment immediately.

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In pictures:

Two Views of Ultrasound test

Above: Patient receiving an ultrasound test.

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