Ultrasound Imaging at Medical City Denton

Please remember that the material presented here is for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions about a medical imaging procedure, contact your physician or the radiology department of the institution where your test will be performed.

Ultrasound imaging - also known as sonography - uses sound waves to produce images of organs, vessels and tissues in the body. During an ultrasound examination, a small, hand-held transducer is placed in contact with the patient's body. It emits inaudible, high-frequency sound waves that pass through the body, sending back "echoes" as they bounce off organs, vessel walls and tissues. Special computer equipment then converts these echoes into an image.

Ultrasound imaging has many applications. It is ideal for imaging the heart and the blood vessels. It can evaluate heart wall, chamber and valve motion, as well as blood flow within the heart and blood vessels. It may be used to detect breast cysts or gallstones and to examine the prostate and to examine the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, colon and urinary bladder for tumors, inflammation, stones or cysts. Ultrasound also can be used to guide needle placement for biopsies, and to guide the drainage of cysts or fluid collections in the abdomen or chest that occur with some illnesses.

Because ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to create images, it is a safe form of fetal imaging. It is used in obstetrics to assess fetal well-being, determine fetal position, diagnose multiple gestations (twins, triplets, etc.), determine a delivery date and rule out ectopic pregnancy. If the fetus is old enough and positioned correctly, a baby's sex also can be determined. Ultrasound also plays a significant role in the evaluation and treatment of infertility.

Patient Preparation

Depending upon the body part being examined, you may be advised to drink water before your ultrasound examination, because sound waves travel more easily through fluid. You also may be advised to avoid drinking carbonated beverages before the examination because the air bubbles may interfere with the image.

You should wear comfortable clothing on the day of your examination. You may or may not be asked to put on a hospital gown, depending upon the procedure.

Before the exam begins, a sonographer will explain the procedure to you, ask questions about your health, ask why your physician requested the exam, and answer any questions you might have. A sonographer is a skilled medical professional who has received specialized education in the areas of anatomy, patient care, imaging techniques and ultrasound procedures.

During the Examination

Total examination time can range from less than 30 minutes to more than an hour, depending upon the part of the body being examined.

The sonographer will position you on the examination table and apply a special lotion to your skin directly above the area being studied. The lotion is odorless, harmless and water-soluble. It acts as a conductor, making it easier for sound waves to travel into the underlying anatomy. After the lotion is applied, the sonographer will move a device called a transducer over the lotion-covered skin. The transducer sends out sound waves and receives echoes. These echoes are relayed to a computer for processing and displayed on a monitor as a picture for the sonographer to view. Selected pictures will be saved in a computerized format to be reviewed by the radiologist.

During the procedure, you will feel light pressure from the transducer being moved over your skin. The sonographer may ask you to change the position of your body or to hold your breath for a few seconds so that certain images can be obtained.

When the exam is complete, your ultrasound scans will be given to a radiologist - a physician who specializes in the diagnostic interpretation of medical images.

Doppler ultrasound is a special application of ultrasound that detects moving objects, such as blood flow. With Doppler ultrasound, physicians can examine the amount, direction and speed of blood flowing through vessels or other organs.

Although the ultrasound transducer usually is placed on the outside of the body, on the surface of the skin, a few examinations require that the transducer be placed inside the body to obtain the highest quality images. Some types of gynecological and obstetric examinations, for example, require that the transducer be placed inside the vagina. These examinations, transvaginal procedures, use a special type of transducer designed for maximum image quality and minimum patient discomfort.

Post-examination Information

After your ultrasound images have been reviewed by a radiologist, your personal physician will receive a report of the findings. Your physician then will advise you of the results and discuss what further procedures, if any, are needed.

There are no known side effects or after effects from ultrasound imaging, and it is not necessary to take any special precautions following your examination.