Diagnostic Ultrasound

What is Diagnostic Ultrasound?

An ultrasound study is a valuable diagnostic tool in assessing pain or other symptoms, as well as showing the size, shape and texture of many body parts that cannot be evaluated using conventional x-ray studies. This exam helps to detect organ problems, such as gallstones, kidney stones, or liver disease.

Areas frequently examined by ultrasound include the abdomen and pelvis. The heart (echocardiography) and various arteries and veins also can be studied using special techniques. Since there is no radiation involved, ultrasound is a safe test to examine pregnant women, evaluate fetal growth and determine due dates. In addition, Radiology Region performs a non-surgical breast biopsy using ultrasound.

What can I expect during the exam?

Ultrasound is a safe, painless, non-invasive procedure that uses sound waves rather than x-rays or any type of radiation. The doctor or technologist will spread a water-based gel on the area to be examined that enhances sound waves. An instrument called a transducer will be placed on the part of the body to be examined.

The transducer transmits the sound waves and receives echoes that return, similar to sonar from a dolphin or submarine. The returning echoes produce images on a monitor that can be filmed and used for diagnosis.

How do I prepare for the exam?

There is little preparation needed for most ultrasound procedures.

  • Do not eat or drink ANYTHING for six hours prior to the exam for any abdominal ultrasound involving the aorta, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, or kidneys. This will ensure the highest quality images.
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water one to two hours prior to the exam for a pelvic ultrasound. Do not urinate during this time as an uncomfortably full bladder is required for the exam.
    Check with your physician about taking your medications. Often medications are permitted with a small sip of water.
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