What is Ultrasound Imaging?
Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays). Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through vessels.
Ultrasound is a noninvasive procedure that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. Conventional ultrasound displays images in thin, flat sections of the body. Technical advancements include three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound that formats the sound wave data into 3D images. The four-dimensional (4D) variant is 3D ultrasound in motion. A Doppler ultrasound study may be part of an ultrasound examination. Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood velocity as it flows through a blood vessel, including the body's major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck.
What are some common uses of the procedure?
Ultrasound examinations can help to diagnose a variety of conditions and to assess organ damage following illness. Ultrasound is a useful way of examining many of the body's internal organs, including but not limited to the:
- heart and blood vessels, including the abdominal aorta and its major branches
- uterus, ovaries and unborn child (fetus) in pregnant women
Ultrasound is also used to:
- guide procedures such as needle biopsies, in which needles are used to extract sample cells from an abnormal area for laboratory testing.
- image the breasts and to guide biopsy of breast cancer.
- diagnose a variety of heart condtions and to assess damage after a heart attack or diagnose for valvular heart disease.
What will I experience during and after the procedure?
Most ultrasound examinations are painless, fast and easy. After you are positioned on the examination table, the radiologist or sonographer will apply some warm water-based gel on your skin and then place the transducer firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. There is usually no discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined.
Exam preparation instructions
Click here for exam preparation instructions for ultrasound procedures.
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