What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a painless and safe procedure which uses sound waves to obtain a medical image or picture of various organs and tissues in the body. Ultrasound produces precise images of a patient’s soft tissues, organs and blood flow.

It can detect diseased or damaged tissues, locate abnormal growths, and identify a wide variety of changing conditions, which enable doctors to make a quick and accurate diagnosis.

What will the exam be like?

A technologist will assist the patients onto the examination table and apply a water-based transmission gel to the area of the body that will be examined.

A transducer will be moved slowly over the body part being imaged. The transducer sends a signal to an on-board computer that processes the data and produces the ultrasound image. It is from this image that the diagnosis is made.

Patients will only feel the slight pressure and movement of the transducer over the part of the body being imaged. It is important that patients remain still and relaxed during the procedure. The ultrasound images will appear on a monitor similar to a TV screen.

Ultrasounds requiring preparation

Pelvic Sonogram: This evaluation is for pregnancy, gynecological problems, abscesses, and pelvic or lower abdominal masses. It does not use radiation and is not harmful to the reproductive organs or unborn baby.

The patient must eat breakfast the morning of the exam to help the body absorb the water and fill the bladder and drink three 8-ounce glasses of water as quickly as possible one hour before the sonogram. The patient should not void until after the scan.

While having a full bladder may be uncomfortable, the exam cannot be done otherwise. The bladder must be distended to push the bowel away from the uterus and to act as a “window” for the sound waves to pass through the fluid collected in the bladder. Please note that if the bladder is not full, we may have to reschedule the appointment.

Pregnancy Sonogram: This exam evaluates the pregnancy and surrounding structures. Up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, the preparation is the same as the pelvic sonogram described above. After 14 weeks of pregnancy, the patient should drink two 8-ounce glasses of water as quickly as possible 1.5 hours before the sonogram. The patient should not void until after the scan.

Sonohysterogram: This exam evaluates the endometrium. A transvaginal exam will be performed immediately before the sonohysterogram.

The sonohysterogram is performed by a radiologist. The radiologist will cleanse the cervix and insert a speculum into the vagina. A thin catheter will be inserted into the vagina through the cervix to the endometrium and the speculum is removed.

The transvaginal probe will then be inserted and under ultrasound surveillance. Sterile water will be injected into the endometrial cavity.

Some pelvic cramping can be associated with this procedure. Therefore, the patient should take two ibuprofen tablets prior to the exam. Some spotting may occur after the procedure.

Thyroid Sonogram: This evaluates mass or enlargement of the thyroid gland. No preparation is required. If the patient has had any nuclear medicine scans done in this area, it is important to have those studies for this exam.

Transvaginal Sonogram (TV): This evaluates the endometrium, early pregnancies, and gynecological problems. Any patient currently using tamoxifen or those on hormone replacement therapy should have a transvaginal ultrasound.

The TV exam is performed on a patient who has an empty bladder. If a TV exam is ordered or indicated, the patient will be asked to void after the pelvic sonogram.

The sonographer will ask the patient to insert a slender probe into her vagina. The probe is covered with a sterile condom for the patient’s protection. The sonographer will then take the end of the probe from the patient and gently move it from side to side. This exam should be painless although sometimes the patient may experience a slight tugging sensation.