What is an ultrasound scan? Uses, types, procedures and risks

Contributed by Harleen Kaur


An ultrasound scan, also known as sonography, is the second most popular imaging diagnostic test after an X-ray.

An ultrasound scan is a type of medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to record real-time images of your body’s internal structures and not radiation or X-rays.

Without making any incisions, ultrasound allows medical professionals to see details of the soft tissues inside your body.

Although most people usually associate ultrasound with pregnancy-related tests, medical professionals use it in a variety of situations to analyze various internal organs of the body.

Why is it necessary to perform an ultrasound?

Ultrasound is used for a variety of purposes

  • During pregnancy, for the health of the unborn child.
  • Diagnose gallbladder disease
  • Measure blood flow
  • Biopsy procedures and tumor treatment
  • A breast lump exam
  • Check thyroid function
  • Diagnose genital and prostate problems
  • Diagnosis of joint inflammation (synovitis)
  • Assess for metabolic bone disease

How is an ultrasound performed?

The way the ultrasound scan is performed depends on the medical problem and the part of the body that needs to be scanned. The scan is performed on a comfortable table, where you either lie flat on your back or on your side.

A transducer, often called a probe, is a device that medical professionals use to send sound waves across or into an area of ​​your body during an ultrasound. Your skin will have a thin layer of gel applied by a healthcare professional to reduce the air between the transducer and the skin so that the ultrasound waves can easily penetrate your body.

The device sends high-frequency sound waves into your body tissues by converting electrical currents into sound waves. These sound waves are barely audible.

Ultrasound is an outpatient procedure that does not require hospitalization and usually takes 30 minutes to 1 hour.

How to prepare yourself for an ultrasound?

A special lubricating gel will be applied to your skin by a sonographer, a technician who performs ultrasounds. They rub the ultrasound transducer against your skin while creating friction. A microphone attached to the transducer is connected to a computer screen that is used to describe the appearance of the transducer as the body part moves. The gel helps smooth transmission of sound waves to body parts.

In addition, your doctor may advise you to fast for a certain period of time, usually 8-12 hours before certain scans, such as those of the liver, lungs, pancreas, gallbladder, stomach, or bladder. Because undigested food in the stomach and urine in the bladder can disrupt the sound waves and hinder the technician’s ability to get a clear image.

Ask your doctor if you should take regular medications before the ultrasound.

A normal ultrasound requires drinking as much water as possible to get a clear picture of the internal organs of the body, however, if you are pregnant, the doctor recommends doing the ultrasound after eating or drinking enough to check the growth and health of the fetus. Monitoring the movements of an unborn baby.

Some commonly recommended ultrasound tests are:

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Breast ultrasound
  • General ultrasound
  • Prostate ultrasound
  • Thyroid ultrasound

Risks of ultrasound

Because ultrasound uses low-power sound waves, it is considered safe as there are no known risks.

Although external and internal ultrasound scans are generally painless and safe, because the probe/transducer is pressed against the skin, some discomfort may be experienced.

In addition, the internal organs of the human body cannot be detected by ultrasound. Your doctor may request additional imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT or MRI scans, to check these areas.

Last thought

Whenever you come across the word ultrasound you must have been scared and wished you didn’t have to have it done. But you have no reason to fear about it. With proper preparation and guidance from your lab, you can have your ultrasound done smoothly without any stress.

Ultrasound is one of the best technologies to help your doctor effectively make a diagnosis. An ultrasound can help your doctor identify and accurately diagnose the cause of a health problem and determine the best treatment plan for you.

After conducting the test, a specialist (radiologist) evaluates the imaging test images and prepares a report.

A major advantage of ultrasound is that you can return to normal routine activities immediately after the ultrasound.

Additionally, you should undergo preventive health checkups. These health tests give a complete report on your health, allowing you to take necessary precautions to improve your health and avoid various ailments.

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