What is Ultrasound?Ultrasound

Ultrasound, or sonography, uses sound waves inaudible to humans to produce images of body parts, particularly organs and tissue. During an ultrasound exam, a device called a transducer is used to send sound waves through the body and track their echoes as they bounce off of internal body structures. Because it uses sound waves, ultrasound causes no radiation exposure to patients and can be repeated often without concern.

Sound waves used in ultrasound travel well through some tissues and not so well through others, depending on their density. For instance, sound waves will travel through a fluid-fell cyst, which would produce a dark appearance on an ultrasound image, but not through a solid tumor, which would produce a lighter appearance.

How is Ultrasound Used?

Ultrasound has a wide range of applications. It is commonly used to help diagnose symptoms such as pain, swelling and infection. Some specific types of ultrasound include:

  • Doppler ultrasound, which is used to assess the flow of blood through blood vessels.
  • Echocardiogram, which is used to evaluate detect problems involving the heart.
  • Fetal ultrasound, which is used to monitor and track pregnancy.
  • Ultrasound-guided biopsies, which use ultrasound to guide biopsy needles during the removal of tissue for testing.

Ultrasound can also be performed in many areas of the body, such as the:

  • Liver
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Bladder
  • Gallbladder
  • Kidneys
  • Uterus
  • Testicles
  • Eyes

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What Happens During an Ultrasound Procedure?

A technologist will take you to the exam room, ask you some medical questions, and explain what you can expect during your test. Before your scan, you may change into a gown and be asked to remove all metal and plastic items from the part of your body being examined. A technologist will help you onto the examining table and position you comfortably. A water based gel is applied to the skin over the area to be examined to block any air between the skin and transducer, as well as to eliminate friction on the skin. The technologist then places the transducer over that area. For some pelvic ultrasound exams, the technologist will use a vaginal transducer, which creates clearer images of the organs in your pelvis.

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