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What to Expect: Ultrasound

Prepare for Your Ultrasound

For your exam you will be lying on your back in a dimly lit room. The duration of your exam will depend on the type of ultrasound being ordered. A trained technologist (sonographer) will apply ultrasound gel to your skin; this allows the sound waves to transmit from the ultrasound machine into your body. The sonographer presses a small, hand-held device (transducer), about the size of a bar of soap, against your skin over the area being examined. Moving the transducer is necessary to capture the needed images. The transducer sends sound waves into your body, collects sound waves that bounce back and sends them to a computer, which creates the images. You may hear a periodic noise from the ultrasound machine taking pictures. Depending on the type of exam you are having, you may also hear a whooshing sound from the sonographer listening to blood flow.

All of the images obtained are interpreted by a radiologist and a report is sent to your ordering physician and any additional physicians that you request. The sonographer does not interpret the results and cannot provide diagnosis at the time of your exam.

Ultrasound of the abdomen is performed to evaluate the solid organs of the upper abdomen and major blood vessels. You will be asked to refrain from eating or drinking for a minimum of 8 hours prior to your exam, generally your are advised to have nothing to eat or drink after midnight. An ultrasound of the abdomen generally takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on the number of organs being evaluated; limited exams are performed to evaluate only the gallbladder, liver, or kidneys.

Ultrasound of the pelvis is performed to evaluate the uterus and ovaries. This is usually performed as a two part exam, an external scan with a full bladder to get an overview of the pelvic organs and an internal exam with the bladder empty to get a closer look at the uterus and ovaries. For your exam you will be asked to drink 32 ounces of water one hour prior to your exam in order to fill your bladder. Please do not void after drinking the water. The sonographer will use your bladder as a “window” to look through.

For the internal exam you will be asked to remove all clothing from the waist down. You will either be given a gown to change into or a sheet to cover your legs. An ultrasound of the pelvis generally takes 20 to 40 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Ultrasound of the thyroid and soft tissue neck is performed to evaluate the thyroid gland and to look for abnormal lymph nodes. There is no special preparation for your exam. We do ask that you wear clothing that allows access to your neck. An ultrasound of the thyroid and soft tissue neck generally takes 15 to 20 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Ultrasound of the breast is performed when you or your physician suspect an abnormality, or if indicated by your mammogram findings. There is no special preparation for your exam. You will be asked to change into a gown for your exam. A radiologist will review your images while you are at our facility and results will be given to you before you leave. The radiologist may come in to scan after the sonographer performs your exam, it is not uncommon for the radiologist to wish to see the area of interest real time and/or to perform a physical exam. An ultrasound of the breast generally takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Ultrasound of the carotid arteries is performed to evaluate the major blood vessels of the neck. There is no special preparation for your exam. We do ask that you wear clothing that allows access to your neck. An ultrasound of the carotid arteries generally takes 30 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Ultrasound of the lower extremities is performed to either assess the arteries (arterial doppler) or veins (venous doppler). The sonographer will scan from your groin to your ankle in order to asses all of the appropriate vessels of the lower extremities. For venous studies the sonographer will be intermittently pressing down with the transducer to evaluate for vessel obstruction. You will be asked to remove clothing from the waist down for your exam. You will either be given a gown to change into or a sheet to cover your legs. An ultrasound of the veins of the lower extremities generally takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain. An ultrasound of the arteries of the lower extremities generally takes 60 to 90 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Ultrasound of the upper extremities is performed to either assess the arteries (arterial doppler) or veins (venous doppler). The sonographer will scan from your neck to your elbow and possibly to your wrist depending on your symptoms. For venous studies the sonographer will be intermittently pressing down with the transducer to evaluate for vessel obstruction. You will be asked to change into a gown to allow the sonographer to adequately access all of the necessary vessels.  An ultrasound of the arteries of the upper extremities generally takes 60 to 90 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain. An ultrasound of the veins of the upper extremities generally takes 15 to 30 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Ultrasound of the scrotum is performed to evaluate the testicles and other scrotal contents. You will either be given a gown to change into or a sheet to cover your legs. An ultrasound of the scrotum generally takes 20 to 30 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.

Obstetrical ultrasound is performed to evaluate fetal and maternal structures. A first trimester ultrasound may be ordered by your physician. Depending on the gestational age of the fetus an internal exam may be performed in addition to the external scan. In preparation for your exam you will be asked to drink 32 ounces of water one hour prior to your exam in order to fill your bladder. Please do not void after drinking your water. The sonographer will use your bladder as a “window” to look through.

A complete fetal survey is performed around 20 weeks gestation. The sonographer will take pictures of the fetal anatomy and measurements for the radiologist to interpret. If you wish to know the gender of your baby the sonographer will do their best to determine the gender for you. You are invited to bring any support person or persons for your exam, due to space limitations we ask that you invite nor more than 3 people to accompany you. If you are bringing a child under the age of 12 please bring someone to supervise them during your scan. We ask that you and any persons you choose to be present during your scan refrain from taking pictures or videos with cell phones or other devices. The sonographer will provide you with images of your baby after your exam.

Echocardiograms are performed to evaluate the cardiac structures and function. There is no special preparation for your exam. You will be asked to undress from the waist up and will be given a gown to wear. An echocardiogram generally takes 45 minutes depending on the number of images the sonographer needs to obtain.