Ultrasound: Purpose, Procedure, and Preparation

Ultrasound

Ultrasound, also known as sonography, is a medical diagnostic procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture photographic images of internal body structures without making an incision.

It allows your doctor to analyse, detect and diagnose a wide range of diseases and conditions pertaining to organs, vessels and soft tissues.

A very safe diagnostic technique, ultrasound does not use radiation to analyse internal body organs. For this reason, it is one of the most preferred techniques to view developing fetus during pregnancy.

Why is an Ultrasound Scan Performed?

Performed both in hospitals and private clinics, ultrasound examinations are commonly used for diagnosis, treatment or guidance during advanced medical procedures like biopsies. Your private GP may ask for an ultrasound scan if you are experiencing pain or swelling in your internal organs. These include

  • Kidneys
  • Gallbladder
  • Uterus
  • Ovaries
  • Urinary Bladder
  • Liver
  • Neck
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Blood Vessels

It is also commonly used to

  • Analyze fetal heart rate and heartbeat
  • Evaluate plaque build-up and clots in blood vessels
  • Investigate lumps and bumps on the skin

How to Prepare for an Ultrasound Examination?

Preparation for an ultrasound depends on the area and/or organ under examination. For example,

  • For an abdominal ultrasound, your private GP may ask you to fast for eight to 12 hours before the ultrasound. That’s because undigested food may interfere with sound waves, blocking them and making it difficult for the doctor to record a clear picture.
  • For gallbladder, pancreas, liver and spleen, your doctor might ask you to eat fat-free food a day before your test. You then fast until the procedure is performed.
  • For kidneys, uterus, bladder and other examinations, your doctor might ask you to drink a lot of water so that your bladder can be better visualised.

But for ultrasound examination of a skin lump, the doctor might not ask for any special preparations.

How is an Ultrasound Performed?

For a private ultrasound scan, the sonographer will apply a lubricating jelly on the area being examined. This prevents air pockets and friction during the procedure. The transducer is then used to send high-frequency sound waves through your body to the organ under examination. The echoes of the sound waves are then reflected back to a computer, which then forms a picture to be interpreted by the doctor.

The entire procedure takes around 30 minutes. However, the time depends on the area being examined.

How are the Ultrasound Results Interpreted?

After the ultrasound, your doctor will check the images and score them for any abnormalities. According to the findings, he will schedule the next course of action.