Ultrasound Scan

What is an ultrasound scan?

An ultrasound scan is a safe and painless procedure used to look at the organs inside the body. It uses high-frequency sound waves and their echoes to create video pictures of the organs and tissues in your body.

When is it used?

Ultrasound is used to diagnose many diseases or conditions. For example, it may be used to check:

  • Problems in organs of the body, like the heart, gallbladder, liver, kidneys, or bladder
  • Breast lumps
  • Blockages or narrowing in blood vessels
  • Muscle or ligament problems
  • An unborn baby or to determine the baby’s due date
  • The placement of a needle being used to remove tissue for testing

How do I prepare for this scan?

In general, you do not need to do anything special to prepare for the scan. Some scans, such as an ultrasound of the uterus, require a full bladder. If you are having an ultrasound scan that requires preparation, your healthcare provider will give you instructions.

What happens during the scan?

A small device called a transducer is placed on your body. A gel is put on your skin to improve the contact between your body and the transducer. For an ultrasound scan of the rectum or a woman’s vagina, the transducer is shaped like a narrow tube. The transducer is covered with a lubricated condomlike sheath before it is inserted gently into the rectum or vagina.

The transducer is connected to a computer with a display screen. High-frequency sound waves pass from the transducer through your body. You cannot hear the sound waves. As the sound waves pass through your body, they bounce off the organs and tissue in your body and create echoes. The computer converts these echoes into images of your organs. The transducer may be moved to several different areas on your body while images are recorded on the computer.

Generally an ultrasound scan takes 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

What happens after the scan?

Usually you can go home and go back to your normal activities as soon as the scan is done. You may be able to have the results within a few minutes to a few days later.

What are the risks of this scan?

Ultrasound has no known risks because the sound waves used are not dangerous.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-01-31
Last reviewed: 2013-12-04
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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