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Ultrasound

Sonogram

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside the body.

How the Test is Performed

An ultrasound machine makes images so that organs inside the body can be examined. The machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives the waves and uses them to create a picture. Unlike with an x-ray or CT scan, this test does not use ionizing radiation.

The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department.

  • You will lie down for the test.
  • A clear, water-based gel is applied to the skin on the area to be examined. The gel helps with the transmission of the sound waves.
  • A handheld probe called a transducer is moved over the area being examined. You may need to change position so that other areas can be examined.

How to Prepare for the Test

Your preparation will depend on the part of the body being examined.

How the Test will Feel

Most of the time, ultrasound procedures do not cause discomfort. The conducting gel may feel a little cold and wet.

Why the Test is Performed

The reason for the test will depend on your symptoms. An ultrasound test may be used to identify problems involving:

Normal Results

Results are considered normal if the organs and structures being examined look OK.

What Abnormal Results Mean

The meaning of abnormal results will depend on the part of the body being examined and the problem found. Talk to your health care provider about your questions and concerns.

Risks

There are no known risks. The test does not use ionizing radiation.

Considerations

Some types of ultrasound tests need to be done with a probe that is inserted into your body. Talk to your provider about how your test will be done.

References

Butts C. Ultrasound. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 66.

Merritt CRB. Physics of ultrasound. In: Rumack CM, Levine D, eds. Diagnostic Ultrasound. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 1.

Cosgrove DO, Eckersley RJ, Harvey CJ, Lim A. Ultrasound. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, Schaefer-Prokop CM, eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015:chap 3.

    • Abdominal ultrasound

      Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

      Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.

      Abdominal ultrasound

      illustration

    • Ultrasound in pregnancy

      Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

      The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

      Ultrasound in pregnancy

      illustration

    • 17 week ultrasound

      17 week ultrasound - illustration

      During seventeen to twenty weeks of development, fetal movements known as quickening are commonly felt by the mother.

      17 week ultrasound

      illustration

    • 30 week ultrasound

      30 week ultrasound - illustration

      Around 30 weeks, the growth of the brain markedly increases. Most systems are well developed, and the fetus can see and hear. A baby may survive if born this early, although the lungs may still be immature.

      30 week ultrasound

      illustration

    • Carotid duplex

      Carotid duplex - illustration

      Carotid duplex is an ultrasound procedure performed to assess blood flow through the carotid artery to the brain. High-frequency sound waves are directed from a hand-held transducer probe to the area. These waves bounce off the arterial structures and produce a 2-dimensional image on a monitor, which will make obstructions or narrowing of the arteries visible.

      Carotid duplex

      illustration

    • Thyroid ultrasound

      Thyroid ultrasound - illustration

      Thyroid ultrasound is a sound wave picture of the thyroid gland taken by a hand-held instrument and translated to a 2-dimensional picture on a monitor. It is used in diagnosis of tumors, cysts or goiters of the thyroid, and is a painless, no-risk procedure.

      Thyroid ultrasound

      illustration

    • Ultrasound

      Ultrasound - illustration

      Ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the growing fetus. The transducer portion emits inaudible sound waves, which fan out as they travel through your abdomen. When they hit dense structures like the fetus and the wall of your uterus, the sound waves bounce back to the transducer and are translated into a visual image by the computer.

      Ultrasound

      illustration

    • Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain

      Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain - illustration

      This is a normal fetal ultrasound performed at 17 weeks gestation. The development of the brain and nervous system begins early in fetal development. During an ultrasound, the technician usually looks for the presence of brain ventricles. Ventricles are spaces in the brain that are filled with fluid. In this early ultrasound, the ventricles can be seen as light lines extending through the skull, seen in the upper right side of the image.

      Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain

      illustration

    • 3D ultrasound

      3D ultrasound - illustration

      3D ultrasound provides a three dimensional image of the fetus. Sound waves are sent at different angles by the transducer for the computer to reconstruct the height, width, and depth of the image.

      3D ultrasound

      illustration

      • Abdominal ultrasound

        Abdominal ultrasound - illustration

        Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.

        Abdominal ultrasound

        illustration

      • Ultrasound in pregnancy

        Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

        The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

        Ultrasound in pregnancy

        illustration

      • 17 week ultrasound

        17 week ultrasound - illustration

        During seventeen to twenty weeks of development, fetal movements known as quickening are commonly felt by the mother.

        17 week ultrasound

        illustration

      • 30 week ultrasound

        30 week ultrasound - illustration

        Around 30 weeks, the growth of the brain markedly increases. Most systems are well developed, and the fetus can see and hear. A baby may survive if born this early, although the lungs may still be immature.

        30 week ultrasound

        illustration

      • Carotid duplex

        Carotid duplex - illustration

        Carotid duplex is an ultrasound procedure performed to assess blood flow through the carotid artery to the brain. High-frequency sound waves are directed from a hand-held transducer probe to the area. These waves bounce off the arterial structures and produce a 2-dimensional image on a monitor, which will make obstructions or narrowing of the arteries visible.

        Carotid duplex

        illustration

      • Thyroid ultrasound

        Thyroid ultrasound - illustration

        Thyroid ultrasound is a sound wave picture of the thyroid gland taken by a hand-held instrument and translated to a 2-dimensional picture on a monitor. It is used in diagnosis of tumors, cysts or goiters of the thyroid, and is a painless, no-risk procedure.

        Thyroid ultrasound

        illustration

      • Ultrasound

        Ultrasound - illustration

        Ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the growing fetus. The transducer portion emits inaudible sound waves, which fan out as they travel through your abdomen. When they hit dense structures like the fetus and the wall of your uterus, the sound waves bounce back to the transducer and are translated into a visual image by the computer.

        Ultrasound

        illustration

      • Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain

        Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain - illustration

        This is a normal fetal ultrasound performed at 17 weeks gestation. The development of the brain and nervous system begins early in fetal development. During an ultrasound, the technician usually looks for the presence of brain ventricles. Ventricles are spaces in the brain that are filled with fluid. In this early ultrasound, the ventricles can be seen as light lines extending through the skull, seen in the upper right side of the image.

        Ultrasound, normal fetus - ventricles of brain

        illustration

      • 3D ultrasound

        3D ultrasound - illustration

        3D ultrasound provides a three dimensional image of the fetus. Sound waves are sent at different angles by the transducer for the computer to reconstruct the height, width, and depth of the image.

        3D ultrasound

        illustration

      Tests for Ultrasound

       

      Review Date: 6/25/2018

      Reviewed By: Jason Levy, MD, Northside Radiology Associates, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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