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Ultrasound

What is ultrasound?
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 blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

Conventional ultrasound displays the images in thin, flat sections of the body. Advancements in ultrasound technology include three-dimensional (3-D) ultrasound that formats the sound wave data into 3-D images. Four-dimensional (4-D) ultrasound is 3-D ultrasound in motion.


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 used to help physicians evaluate symptoms such as:

* pain
* swelling
* infection

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
* liver
* gallbladder
* spleen
* pancreas
* kidneys
* bladder
* uterus, ovaries, and unborn child (fetus) in pregnant patients
* eyes
* thyroid and parathyroid glands
* scrotum (testicles)

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 (see the Ultrasound-Guided Breast Biopsy page).
* diagnose a variety of heart conditions and to assess damage after a heart attack or diagnose for valvular heart disease.
 
How can I prepare for my upcoming exam?
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You may need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined.

You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.

Other preparation depends on the type of examination you will have. For some scans your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink for as many as 12 hours before your appointment. For others you may be asked to drink up to six glasses of water two hours prior to your exam and avoid urinating so that your bladder is full when the scan begins.

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RadiologyInfo.org (www.radiologyinfo.org) - Current and accurate patient information about diagnostic radiology procedures, interventional radiology and radiation therapy.