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Ultrasound is a painless test involving the use of sound waves. Ultrasound scanners use high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of the body. Ultrasounds are used to look for changes in tissue in organs. There are no harmful affects.

What are ultrasounds used for?

  • Detecting heart abnormalities (such as an echocardiogram)
  • Examining the kidney, bladder and prostate gland to identify abnormalities
  • Diagnosing tumours, gallstones and cysts in organs such as the liver and pancreas
  • Detecting lumps in the breast
  • Diagnosing muscle and tendon tears in musculo-skeletal conditions
  • A probe may be placed in the vagina or rectum to get clearer images not possible from outside the body, to diagnose for polycystic ovaries for example

There are a comprehensive range of general ultrasound scans available including specialist ultrasound procedures such as:

  • Pelvic (transabdominal and transvaginal)
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Urology, including prostate
  • Biliary
  • Small parts

What happens in an ultrasound?

Depending on the area being imaged, you may be asked to change in to a gown. You will be shown to the ultrasound room and asked to lie on the ultrasound couch on your back while the scans are performed.

A clear lubricating jelly is applied to the area being imaged to help the transducer make secure contact with the body. This eliminates air pockets between the transducer and the skin resulting in clearer images. The radiologist then gently presses the transducer firmly against the skin and sweeps it over the area of interest until the desired images are captured.

This probe directs a stream of high frequency sound waves in to the body. There sound waves are reflected off the internal organs and structures in the body. The reflected ultrasound waves are detected by the transducer and used to create an image of the organs and structures. Ultrasound is captured in real time and is constantly updating so that you can see movement, such as the valves of a heart opening and closing.

Ultrasound is painless and will take typically between 30 minutes. Upon completion of the examination, you will be asked to dress and wait while the ultrasound images are placed onto CD for you to take with you. The consultant radiologist will review the images and complete a report. The report is sent to your referring clinician.

What are the benefits of ultrasound?

  • Painless and non-invasive
  • Can visualise movement and function and therefore can examine blood vessels and blood flow to different organs
  • Does not use x-rays or any other type of ionising radiation to produce an image
  • Gives a clear image of soft tissues that may not show up well on x-rays
  • Causes no health problems and may be repeated as often as necessary

How should I prepare for an ultrasound?

There may be special preparation required for an ultrasound depending on the area of the body being imaged. You may need to fast for a few hours before certain ultrasounds,  or required to have a full bladder. Please contact the Imaging Services department for preparation details for your ultrasound.

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