Ultrasound, also known as sonography, is an imaging technique that sends high-frequency sound waves through the body. These waves bounce off internal structures. Special equipment records these echoes to create pictures of inside the body. The technology works much like the sonar used in fish finders and ships.

Ultrasound can produce real-time images of organs in motion, without the use of radiation. It is a highly versatile tool used by physicians to diagnose and treat many medical conditions, and to investigate pain, swelling, infection and other problems with internal organs, such as the gastrointestinal (GI) organs, kidneys and reproductive organs.

A special type of ultrasound technique, called Doppler ultrasound, is used to study blood flow through vessels, including major arteries and veins in the abdomen, neck, legs and arms. Doppler ultrasounds help physicians evaluate blockages to blood flow, narrowing of vessels, and tumors or congenital malformations.

Ultrasound is also used to guide biopsies and other minimally invasive medical procedures.

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What should I expect?

For most ultrasound exams, you will lie on an exam table. A clear gel will be applied to the area of the body that is being studied. The gel eliminates air pockets between the skin and transducer, a small hand-held device that is used to complete the scan.

Next, an ultrasound technologist presses the transducer firmly against your skin and moves it slowly back and forth over the specific area. The transducer sends sound waves into your body. The sound waves bounce off tissues inside your body. The ultrasound equipment detects these echoes to produce real-time images that can be recorded and viewed on a monitor.

In some ultrasound studies, the transducer is attached to a probe and inserted into the body. This technique is used in a transrectal ultrasound, in which the probe is inserted into the man’s rectum to view the prostate, and in a transvaginal ultrasound, in which the probe is inserted into a woman’s vagina to view the uterus and ovaries.

Generally, an ultrasound exam is completed within 30 minutes to an hour.

In some cases, you may be asked to dress and wait while the ultrasound images are reviewed. A report of your exam will be sent to your doctor, who will discuss the results with you.

To ensure the best possible exam, we ask that you adhere to the following policies during your exam:

  • We cannot allow unsupervised children under the age of 12 in the exam room or in the lobby. We do, however, provide flexible weekend and evening appointments are available.
  • Only the patient is allowed into the exam room during the exam, with the exception of OB, minor patients, care givers, or interpreters.
  • During Obstetrical ultrasounds, a maximum of two adults will be allowed in the room.
  • Cameras and camcorders are extremely distracting and are not allowed in the room during the exam.
  • Patients who are pregnant will be given some complimentary photos of their baby. Entertainment DVDs are no longer available. Official copies of your exam can be requested for a small fee and will be available 48 hours after the completion of your test.
  • Cell phone use is not allowed in the exam room.