What is ultrasound?
Diagnostic ultrasound, also known as medical ultrasound, is an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of structures in your body. Images can provide valuable information for diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions. This test can detect common and sometimes serious health problems such as gallstones, blood clots, and cancer. For your health and safety, see a trained professional (sonographer).
Most ultrasound tests are done using an ultrasound device outside of your body, although some keep the device on your body. This is done by a nutritionist.
Types of ultrasound
Doppler ultrasound uses sound waves to capture blood flow within blood vessels. Regular ultrasound does not provide these details.
The type of ultrasound performed depends on the details of your case. It often depends on the area your provider is evaluating:
- Abdominal ultrasound: An ultrasound probe (also known as a transducer) is moved through the skin of your medial (abdominal) area.
- Endoscopic ultrasound: The provider carefully guides a flexible tube (called an endoscope) down your throat. There is an ultrasound probe at the end of this tube. The probe shows the inside and outside of the digestive or abdominal organs, such as the liver. During this procedure, your provider may also remove a small sample of tissue for later analysis in the laboratory.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram: In this particular procedure, the provider carefully guides the endoscopic probe down your throat. The probe takes pictures of the heart and nearby blood vessels.
- Transrectal ultrasound: Your provider inserts an ultrasound probe transducer into your rectum. Evaluates nearby tissues like the rectum or prostate (in men).
- Transvaginal ultrasound: Your technician inserts a probe into your vagina. It shows reproductive tissues such as the uterus or ovaries. Transvaginal ultrasound is sometimes called a pelvic ultrasound because it evaluates the internal structures of the pelvis (hip bones).
- Contrast ultrasound. In this procedure, your provider sends contrast agents through a catheter or IV during your ultrasound. These agents help give a clear picture of your organs (commonly used for the kidneys, liver, and bladder).
What is this used for?
Ultrasound can be used in different ways depending on the type of ultrasound and the part of the body being examined.
A pregnancy ultrasound is performed to obtain information about the health of the fetus. These can be used to:
- Make sure you are pregnant.
- Check the size and location of the fetus.
- Check if you are pregnant with more than one baby.
- Calculate how long you have been pregnant. This is called the gestational age.
- Look for signs of Down syndrome, which may include stiffness in the back of the baby’s neck.
- Look for birth defects in the brain, spinal cord, heart, or other parts of the body.
- Check the amount of amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is the clear fluid that surrounds the fetus during pregnancy. This protects the baby from external injuries and the cold. It also helps promote lung and bone growth.
Diagnostic ultrasound can use:
- Find out if the blood is flowing at a normal rate and level.
- See if there are any problems with the structure of your heart.
- Look for blockages in the gallbladder.
- Check the thyroid gland for cancer or non-cancerous growth.
- Look for abnormalities in the abdomen and kidneys.
- Help guide the biopsy procedure. A biopsy is a procedure that removes a small sample of tissue for examination.
In women, a diagnostic ultrasound can be used:
- Look at the breast lump to see if it is cancer. (This test can also be used to detect breast cancer in men, although this type of cancer is more common in women.)
- Help find the cause of pelvic pain.
- Help find the cause of abnormally structured bleeding.
- Help diagnose infertility or monitor infertility treatments.
- In men, diagnostic ultrasound can help diagnose disorders of the prostate gland.
Why do I need an ultrasound?
Most people associate ultrasounds with pregnancy. These scans can give the expectant mother the first sight of her unborn baby. However, there are many other uses for testing.
Your doctor may order an ultrasound if you have pain, swelling, or other symptoms that require an internal view of your organs. Provides an ultrasound view:
- Brain (in babies)
- Blood vessels
Ultrasound can also help guide surgeons’ movements during certain medical procedures, such as biopsies.
How to prepare for an ultrasound?
The steps you need to take to prepare for an ultrasound depending on the area or organ being examined.
Your doctor may tell you to fast for eight to 12 hours before the ultrasound, especially if your abdomen is being examined. Undigested food can block sound waves, making it difficult for a technician to get a clear picture.
For the gallbladder, liver, pancreas, or spleen exam, it is recommended to eat a fat-free meal in the evening before the exam and to fast until the next procedure. However, you can continue to drink water and take your prescribed medications. For other tests, you may be asked to drink lots of water and hold your urine so that your bladder is full and clearly visible.
Inform your doctor of any medications, over-the-counter medications, or herbal medications you may be taking before the test.
It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions and ask yourself any questions before the procedure.
Ultrasound has minimal risks. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, ultrasounds do not use radiation. For this reason, they prefer to examine the developing fetus during pregnancy.
How ultrasounds are performed?
Before the test, you put on a hospital gown. You can lie on a table that will expose a part of your body for the test.
An ultrasound technician called a sonographer applies a special lubricating jelly to your skin. They can rub the ultrasound transducer on their skin as it prevents friction. The transducer has a similar appearance to the microphone. Jelly also helps transmit sound waves.
The transducer sends high-frequency sound waves through your body. The waves resonate when they touch a dense object, such as an organ or bone. Those echoes are reflected on the computer. Sound waves are louder than the pitch the human ear can hear. They form a picture that the doctor can understand.
Depending on the area being examined, you may need to relocate to give the technician better access.
Before the procedure
Before your ultrasound begins, you may be asked to do the following:
- Remove jewellery from the examined area.
- Remove some or all of your clothing.
- Put on a robe.
- You will be asked to lie down on the exam table.
During the process
The gel is applied to your skin at the test site. This helps prevent air pockets, which can block sound waves that create images. This water-based gel is easy to remove from the skin and, if necessary, use.
A trained technician (sonographer) presses a small handheld transducer against the area being studied and moves it as needed to take pictures. The transducer sends sound waves into your body, picks up the bouncing ones, and sends them to the computer, which creates images.
Sometimes ultrasounds are done inside your body. In this case, the transducer is connected to a probe that is inserted into a natural opening in the body. Examples:
- Transesophageal echocardiogram: The transducer that is inserted into your esophagus receives images of your heart. This usually happens when you are intoxicated.
- Transrectal ultrasound: This test creates images of the prostate by placing a special transducer in the rectum.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: A special transducer is gently inserted into the vagina to quickly view the uterus and ovaries.
- Ultrasound is usually painless: However, you may experience mild discomfort when the sonographer guides the transducer through your body, especially if you need to have a full bladder or insert it into your body.
A simple ultrasound exam can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
After the ultrasound
After the test, your doctor will review the images and check for abnormalities. They will call you to discuss the results or schedule the next appointment. If there are any abnormalities, you may have other diagnostic procedures, such as a CT scan, MRI, or tissue biopsy, depending on the area examined. If your doctor can diagnose your condition based on your test, they can begin your treatment right away.
When your test is complete, a radiologist trained in understanding imaging studies will analyze the images and send a report to your doctor. Your doctor will share the results with you.
After the scan, you will be able to return to your normal activities.
How safe ultrasound is?
Most types are harmless and do not have exposure to ionizing radiation. This procedure is believed to be very safe.
However, unnecessary scans are not recommended during pregnancy, as long-term risks have not been established. This is recommended during pregnancy only when medically necessary.
Anyone with a latex allergy should inform their physician not to use a latex-covered tube.
Benefits of ultrasound examination
They are generally painless and do not require needles, injections, or incisions.
Patients aren’t exposed to ionizing radiation, making the procedure safer than diagnostic techniques such as X-rays and CT scans. In fact, there are no known harmful effects when used as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Ultrasound captures images of soft tissues that don’t show up well on X-rays.
- Ultrasound is widely accessible and less expensive than other methods.
- Ultrasound imaging medicine has many uses, from diagnosing and dating to diagnosing certain conditions and guiding physicians through precise medical procedures.
The pregnancy: Ultrasound images have many uses during pregnancy. Initially, they can be used to determine fixed dates, to reveal the presence of twins or other multiples, and to rule out ectopic pregnancies. They are also valuable screening tools that can help identify potential problems, including some birth defects, placental problems, breech position, and others. Many parents are eager to find out the sex of their children through ultrasound mid-pregnancy. And in the last stage of pregnancy, doctors can also use ultrasound scans to assess how big the baby is before delivery.
Diagnostics Doctors use ultrasound images to diagnose a wide variety of conditions that affect the body’s organs and soft tissues, including the heart and blood vessels, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, bladder. , the uterus, the ovaries, the eyes, the thyroid, and the testicles. This has some diagnostic limitations; Sound waves do not travel well through parts of the body that contain air or gas, such as dense bones or intestines.
- Use during medical procedures. Ultrasound imaging helps physicians during procedures such as needle biopsies, which require the physician to remove tissue from a very precise area within the body for analysis in the laboratory.
- Therapeutic applications. It is sometimes used to identify and treat soft tissue injuries.