You have been scheduled for an ultrasound at UW Hospital and Clinics. Allow time to park and find the reception area. Sometimes emergency exams have to be worked into our schedule. We're sorry for any delays this may cause.
What Is Ultrasound?
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the body. These high-frequency sound waves cannot be heard during the exam. Ultrasound does not use x-rays or special dyes, and is most often painless. It is a useful tool to look at many parts of the body. It can be used to look at the abdomen, to take images of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, and gall bladder. It is used to monitor transplanted organs, such as the kidney and liver. It can also be used to look at women's reproductive organs to find the causes of pain or bleeding, or to assess a pregnancy. Ultrasound can be used to assess lumps found in the breast, testicles, and thyroid gland. Blood vessels in the body, neck, arms and legs are also checked with this technique.
Preparing for the Ultrasound Exam
Wear comfortable, washable clothing. Depending on the type of ultrasound you are going to have, you may be given a hospital gown and asked to partly undress. For some exams you will be told not to eat or drink for six hours before your exam. If you are having an ultrasound-guided procedure, you will be contacted by a nurse who will give you more information and instructions.
Doing the prep as you are told is vital. Your your exam may have to be rescheduled if you do not follow the directions.
During the Ultrasound
The sonographer (technologist who performs the exam) will ask you a few questions about the symptoms that led your doctor to order the exam. You will be asked to lie on a table in a darkened room. A warm gel will be applied to your skin in the area under exam. The sonographer will then slide a small, hand-held device called a transducer over your skin. This is the device that creates the images. The sonographer will watch the images on a computer monitor. Depending on your exam, you may need to change positions or hold your breath in order to best view the area being examined. You may feel some mild pressure from the transducer. You should tell the sonographer if you feel any pain or discomfort during the exam.
After the exam the sonographer reviews the exam and images with the doctor who will interpret the ultrasound exam. The doctor may come into the scan room to ask you further questions or do a brief scan. Most exams take 30-60 minutes.
Special types of Ultrasound
For female patients who are having their uterus or ovaries evaluated, a special internal transducer may be used. This provides better pictures. Please let the sonographer know if you have any latex allergies.
Ultrasound that shows blood flow in the veins and arteries is called a Doppler. During a Doppler study you may see colors on the screen and hear swishing sounds.
Ultrasound can also be used to guide procedures performed in the ultrasound room. The doctor will explain the procedure and then have a consent form for you to sign. Other health-care professionals may also participate in some special procedures. This will be explained by the sonographer. You will also be monitored by the radiology staff before and after your procedure.
After the Ultrasound
Unless you are scheduled for more tests, you can resume your regular routine. You may eat or drink right after after the ultrasound exam. The results of the exam will be sent to your doctor, who will then contact you and explain the results and choices of treatment.
If you have questions about the exam, please call your local doctor or clinic.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/28/2013
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