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Ultrasound

Sonogram

 

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside the body.

How the Test is Performed

 

An ultrasound machine makes images so that organs inside the body can be examined. The machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives the waves and uses them to create a picture. Unlike with an x-ray or CT scan, this test does not use ionizing radiation.

The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department.

  • You will lie down for the test.
  • A clear, water-based gel is applied to the skin on the area to be examined. The gel helps with the transmission of the sound waves.
  • A handheld probe called a transducer is moved over the area being examined. You may need to change position so that other areas can be examined.

 

How to Prepare for the Test

 

Your preparation will depend on the part of the body being examined.

 

How the Test will Feel

 

Most of the time, ultrasound procedures do not cause discomfort. The conducting gel may feel a little cold and wet.

 

Why the Test is Performed

 

The reason for the test will depend on your symptoms. An ultrasound test may be used to identify problems involving:

  • Arteries in the neck
  • Veins or arteries in the arms or legs
  • Pregnancy
  • Pelvis
  • Abdomen and kidneys
  • Breast
  • Thyroid
  • Eye and orbit

 

Normal Results

 

Results are considered normal if the organs and structures being examined look OK.

 

What Abnormal Results Mean

 

The meaning of abnormal results will depend on the part of the body being examined and the problem found. Talk to your health care provider about your questions and concerns.

 

Risks

 

There are no known risks. The test does not use ionizing radiation.

 

Considerations

 

Some types of ultrasound tests need to be done with a probe that is inserted into your body. Talk to your provider about how your test will be done.

 

 

References

Butts C. Ultrasound. In: Roberts JR, ed. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 66.

Cosgrove DO, Eckersley RJ, Harvey CJ, Lim A. Ultrasound. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier; 2015:chap 3.

 
  • Abdominal ultrasound

    Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

    Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.

    Abdominal ultrasound

    illustration

  • Ultrasound in pregnancy

    Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

    The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions in the fetus including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

    Ultrasound in pregnancy

    illustration

  • 17 week ultrasound

    17 week ultrasound - illustration

    During seventeen to twenty weeks of development, fetal movements known as quickening are commonly felt by the mother.

    17 week ultrasound

    illustration

  • 30 week ultrasound

    30 week ultrasound - illustration

    Around 30 weeks, the growth of the brain markedly increases. Most systems are well developed, and the fetus can see and hear. A baby may survive if born this early, although the lungs may still be immature.

    30 week ultrasound

    illustration

  • Carotid duplex

    Carotid duplex - illustration

    Carotid duplex is an ultrasound procedure performed to assess blood flow through the carotid artery to the brain. High-frequency sound waves are directed from a hand-held transducer probe to the area. These waves bounce off the arterial structures and produce a 2-dimensional image on a monitor, which will make obstructions or narrowing of the arteries visible.

    Carotid duplex

    illustration

  • Ultrasound comparison

    Ultrasound comparison - illustration

    To demonstrate how an ultrasound works, imagine this tennis ball as an internal organ in the body. Like many organs, the tennis ball is solid on the outside and hollow on the inside. Solid structures, such as bones and muscles, reflect sound waves from the ultrasound transducer and show up as white in an ultrasound image. Soft or hollow areas, like chambers of the heart, do not reflect sound waves and appear as black. The white ring is the outer edge of the tennis ball being reflected back as an image while the center hollow area remains as black.

    Ultrasound comparison

    illustration

  • Thyroid ultrasound

    Thyroid ultrasound - illustration

    Thyroid ultrasound is a sound wave picture of the thyroid gland taken by a hand-held instrument and translated to a 2-dimensional picture on a monitor. It is used in diagnosis of tumors, cysts or goiters of the thyroid, and is a painless, no-risk procedure.

    Thyroid ultrasound

    illustration

  • Ultrasound

    Ultrasound - illustration

    Ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the growing fetus. The transducer portion emits inaudible sound waves, which fan out as they travel through your abdomen. When they hit dense structures like the fetus and the wall of your uterus, the sound waves bounce back to the transducer and are translated into a visual image by the computer.

    Ultrasound

    illustration

  • Ultrasound, normal fetus- ventricles of brain

    Ultrasound, normal fetus- ventricles of brain - illustration

    This is a normal fetal ultrasound performed at 17 weeks gestation. The development of the brain and nervous system begins early in fetal development. During an ultrasound, the technician usually looks for the presence of brain ventricles. Ventricles are spaces in the brain that are filled with fluid. In this early ultrasound, the ventricles can be seen as light lines extending through the skull, seen in the upper right side of the image.

    Ultrasound, normal fetus- ventricles of brain

    illustration

  • 3D ultrasound

    3D ultrasound - illustration

    3D ultrasound provides a three dimensional image of the fetus. Sound waves are sent at different angles by the transducer for the computer to reconstruct the height, width, and depth of the image.

    3D ultrasound

    illustration

    • Abdominal ultrasound

      Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

      Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.

      Abdominal ultrasound

      illustration

    • Ultrasound in pregnancy

      Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

      The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions in the fetus including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

      Ultrasound in pregnancy

      illustration

    • 17 week ultrasound

      17 week ultrasound - illustration

      During seventeen to twenty weeks of development, fetal movements known as quickening are commonly felt by the mother.

      17 week ultrasound

      illustration

    • 30 week ultrasound

      30 week ultrasound - illustration

      Around 30 weeks, the growth of the brain markedly increases. Most systems are well developed, and the fetus can see and hear. A baby may survive if born this early, although the lungs may still be immature.

      30 week ultrasound

      illustration

    • Carotid duplex

      Carotid duplex - illustration

      Carotid duplex is an ultrasound procedure performed to assess blood flow through the carotid artery to the brain. High-frequency sound waves are directed from a hand-held transducer probe to the area. These waves bounce off the arterial structures and produce a 2-dimensional image on a monitor, which will make obstructions or narrowing of the arteries visible.

      Carotid duplex

      illustration

    • Ultrasound comparison

      Ultrasound comparison - illustration

      To demonstrate how an ultrasound works, imagine this tennis ball as an internal organ in the body. Like many organs, the tennis ball is solid on the outside and hollow on the inside. Solid structures, such as bones and muscles, reflect sound waves from the ultrasound transducer and show up as white in an ultrasound image. Soft or hollow areas, like chambers of the heart, do not reflect sound waves and appear as black. The white ring is the outer edge of the tennis ball being reflected back as an image while the center hollow area remains as black.

      Ultrasound comparison

      illustration

    • Thyroid ultrasound

      Thyroid ultrasound - illustration

      Thyroid ultrasound is a sound wave picture of the thyroid gland taken by a hand-held instrument and translated to a 2-dimensional picture on a monitor. It is used in diagnosis of tumors, cysts or goiters of the thyroid, and is a painless, no-risk procedure.

      Thyroid ultrasound

      illustration

    • Ultrasound

      Ultrasound - illustration

      Ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the growing fetus. The transducer portion emits inaudible sound waves, which fan out as they travel through your abdomen. When they hit dense structures like the fetus and the wall of your uterus, the sound waves bounce back to the transducer and are translated into a visual image by the computer.

      Ultrasound

      illustration

    • Ultrasound, normal fetus- ventricles of brain

      Ultrasound, normal fetus- ventricles of brain - illustration

      This is a normal fetal ultrasound performed at 17 weeks gestation. The development of the brain and nervous system begins early in fetal development. During an ultrasound, the technician usually looks for the presence of brain ventricles. Ventricles are spaces in the brain that are filled with fluid. In this early ultrasound, the ventricles can be seen as light lines extending through the skull, seen in the upper right side of the image.

      Ultrasound, normal fetus- ventricles of brain

      illustration

    • 3D ultrasound

      3D ultrasound - illustration

      3D ultrasound provides a three dimensional image of the fetus. Sound waves are sent at different angles by the transducer for the computer to reconstruct the height, width, and depth of the image.

      3D ultrasound

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Self Care

       

        Tests for Ultrasound

         

         

        Review Date: 7/3/2016

        Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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