Ultrasound is a medical screening and imaging procedure that uses sound waves to create pictures of the inside of your body. One of the most common uses of ultrasound is to look at an unborn baby inside the mother’s womb. But, this imaging can also tell you a lot about your health in specific areas. An ultrasound isn’t a routine screening. It’s only done when the doctor needs an image of a specific part of the body, such as your veins or abdomen.
The technician passes a wand, called a transducer, over the treatment area. It then emits a high-frequency sound that bounces off your internal organs and tissues to create a picture on a computer screen. The doctor then reads the ultrasound images to diagnose and sometimes offer treatment to specific health issues.
Ultrasounds aren’t useful in examining bones or some parts of the bowel, as the sound waves can’t move readily through bone or gas.
You might have an ultrasound of your heart, veins, abdomen, kidneys, pelvis, or thyroid, or many other areas. The ultrasound helps the doctor in diagnosing a problem in these regions, or assists in treatment, such as finding the precise location of a mass to be biopsied.
In some cases, an ultrasound may be performed in a natural orifice of your body. Vaginal ultrasounds permit better visuals of the uterus and ovaries; rectal ultrasounds help with prostate diagnoses, and esophagus ultrasounds give a better image of the heart.
An ultrasound is noninvasive and doesn’t cause pain. There’s no radiation involved and has no known harmful effects. Ultrasounds are widely accessible and less expensive than other methods.
You’ll need to wear a gown, depending on the location of your exam, and the technician applies a gel to your skin so the wand slides smoothly. The gel also helps in transmission of the sound waves. This may tickle slightly, but isn’t seriously uncomfortable. You remain awake during the entire procedure, which lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. You’ll have no restrictions following an ultrasound evaluation.
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