Most people who hear the word "ultrasound" picture a pregnant woman in her OBGYN's office getting to look at her baby while it is still in the womb. While this is possibly the most common usage of an ultrasound, it is not the only one. Ultrasound imaging is a diagnostic tool with many applications. It can be used to diagnose a wide variety of conditions affecting the organs and soft tissues of the body, including the heart and blood vessels, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, blatter, uterus, ovaries, eyes, thyroid and testicles.
Ultrasound imaging works by using sound waves to develop ultrasound images of what's going on inside the body. An instrument called a transducer emits high-frequency sound, that is inaudible to the human ear, and then records the echoes as the sound waves bounce back to determine the size, shape and consistency of organs and soft tissues. This information is then relayed in real time to produce images on a computer screen. Ultrasound technicians or sonographers have special training in how to interpret these images. They can assist your doctor through helping to diagnose and treat certain conditions using this technology.
There are many advantages to using ultrasound as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasounds are generally painless and do not require needles, injections or incisions. Patients are not being exposed to ionizong radiation, making the procedure safer than other diagnostic tests such as x-rays and CT scans. In fact, there are no harmful effects at all. Also, ultrasound captures images of soft tissues that do not show up well on x-rays. Additionally, ultrasounds are widely accessible and less expensive than other methods.
What should you expect during an ultrasound? Depending on the type of ultrasound you are having, your doctor may provide special instructions, such as not eating or drinking anything for a number of hours before the test. Also, you should wear comfortable clothing that is easy to remove or partially remove. In some cases, you may be asked to disrobe or wear a gown, but often an ultrasound technician can easily access the area of the body that is being screened without your having to take off your clothes.
The technician will apply a water-based gel to the area that is being scanned. This gel is used so the transducer can easily glide across your skin without any air in between. He or she may be looking for specific markers and may take measurements or notes while the test is in progress. A typical ultrasound takes between 30 minutes and an hour. Ultrasounds usually are not uncomfortable and you are awake and alert during the procedure. Often a technician will discuss what he or she is seeing during the test, but in some instances, you may have to wait to discuss the findings with your doctor.
At Oyster Point Family Practice, we have ultrasound on site every Friday for appointments and emergent care requested by our providers. Sometimes, there is preparatory work required prior to ultrasounds, such as when you are having a pelvic ultrasound. You are required to drink 32 ounces of clear fluid an hour before the test and cannot void until after the ultrasound is completed. If your physician orders an ultrasound, we will schedule you for the next available appointment at our office. In cases where the diagnosis needs to be made sooner than an appointment is available at our office, our Referral Specialist will make you an appointment at another facility that participates with your insurance. Please keep in mind that any results will take a few days to be delivered to your physician.