What Is Ultrasound Imaging?

Ultrasound imaging, also known as sonography, is a safe imaging technique that produces images of the inside of the body using high-frequency sound waves as opposed to radiation. This is what makes it a safe procedure to employ during pregnancy. The images captured by ultrasound are in real time and show the movement and structure of internal organs, as well as blood as it flows through the vessels.

The ultrasound technician also referred to as a sonographer, holds a hand-held device called a transducer over the patient’s skin. In some cases, the transducer is placed internally. The ultrasound is actually sound waves that travel through fluids and soft tissue, but when it hits denser surfaces, it bounces back or echoes. This is what creates the images. When an object is denser, more ultrasound bounces back. This echo gives the image its features, so the various shades of gray reflect the different densities.

Reasons Why Ultrasounds Are Performed

Ultrasound scans can be used to help physicians diagnose a huge variety of medical conditions and come up with treatment plans. Ultrasounds also let them evaluate various symptoms, like infections, swelling or pain. Ultrasounds can be used for guidance during procedures as well, such as biopsies, or to assist anesthesiologists attempting to guide needles near nerves.

Ultrasounds are extremely useful in examining many of the body’s organs, which makes it a valuable diagnostic tool for issues related to circulation, abdominal conditions, newborn care, obstetrics, urology, musculoskeletal concerns and more. Some of the most common parts of the body that undergo ultrasound scanning include:

  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Thyroid
  • Gallbladder
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Bladder
  • Uterus
  • Ovaries
  • Scrotum
  • Soft Tissues
  • Muscles
  • Tendons
  • Joints

How to Prepare for an Ultrasound

Most ultrasounds are noninvasive and believed to be very safe. However, if you are allergic to latex, be sure to inform the team at Envision Radiology ahead of time, so they do not use a latex-covered transducer.

In general, you will not need to worry about special preparation. You just may want to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.

For patients undergoing imaging of their liver or gallbladder, you may need to fast for several hours before the ultrasound. For those receiving images during pregnancy, drink plenty of water and don’t urinate for some time before the test. A full bladder allows the scan to produce better images of the uterus.

What to Expect During an Ultrasound

Most ultrasound procedures are fast and painless and are completed within 30 to 60 minutes. What you can expect depends on whether you are having an external or internal ultrasound:

  • External ultrasound: The technician will put a lubricating gel over your skin and then place the transducer over your lubricated skin. The transducer will be moved over those parts of your body that need to be examined. This should not cause any pain. However, if you are pregnant, your full bladder might cause slight discomfort.
  • Internal ultrasound: This type of scan involves placing the transducer within the rectum for a man or the vagina for a woman. Sometimes, especially for digestive issues, an endoscope may be inserted, usually through the mouth. These types of ultrasounds are less comfortable than external ones, and in some cases, patients may be given pain medication to reduce discomfort.

Find a Location Near You

Envision Radiology has imaging centers in Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. If you’re in need of ultrasound imaging, be sure to check your closest location to make sure it is offered. Each office has its own list of procedures it provides.

When you’re ready to make an appointment, contact the center nearest you at one of these areas: