Your Patients May Ask You


• What is an Ultrasound scan?

An ultrasound scan is a method of imaging the body using high frequency sound waves. A hand held probe is placed against the skin, to which, an ultrasound gel has been applied. This in turn allows the sound waves to travel into the body. The probe can then be moved across the body to scan and image various organs and structures. These are then displayed on the system's monitor for interpretation by an appropriately qualified medical professional.

• What does the equipment look like?

Ultrasound scanners consist of a console containing a computer and electronics, a video display screen and a transducer that is used to scan the body. The transducer is a small hand-held device that resembles a microphone, attached to the scanner by a cord. The transducer sends out a high frequency sound wave and then listens for a returning sound wave or "echo."

The ultrasound image is immediately visible on a nearby screen that looks much like a computer or television monitor. The image is created based on the amplitude (strength), frequency and time it takes for the sound signal to return from the patient to the transducer.

• Is there any special preparation?

Abdominal studies require some preparation. Upper abdominal scans (limited or complete abdominal, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, aorta, spleen) require you not to eat for at least six hours prior to the start of the exam. This enables the gallbladder to fill, keeping the stomach empty and reducing intestinal gas.

For renal scans, you will need to have a full bladder. It is best to start drinking 4-5 glasses of water of fluid an hour before the examination.

• Who will I see?

A State-certified, appropriately trained radiologist or sonographer, depending on what type of examination you are having.

• What happens during the scan?

ou will be asked about your health and current symptoms relating to the scan. You will be asked to lie down on the couch. You will be asked to remove clothes away from the area being examined.

The sonographer will sit or stand by your side and gel will be applied to the skin. A probe is gently moved across the area of interest. You may be asked to roll onto your side, sit or even stand during the examination.

For abdominal examinations you will be asked to take deep breaths and hold your breath for a few moments.

Occasionally the bladder may not be full enough to assess and you will be asked to drink some more fluid and sit and wait until the bladder fills.

• How long will it take?

Most examinations take 30-45 minutes. More specialized scans can take up to an hour, such as vascular examinations of blood flow.

• Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you. In some cases the radiologist may discuss preliminary results with you at the conclusion of your examination.

What are the benefits vs. risks?


- Ultrasound scanning is noninvasive (no needles or injections) and is usually painless.

- Ultrasound is widely available, easy-to-use and less expensive than other imaging methods.

- Ultrasound imaging uses no ionizing radiation. Ultrasound scanning gives a clear picture of soft tissues that do not show up well on x-ray images.

- Ultrasound causes no health problems and may be repeated as often as is necessary if medically indicated.

- Ultrasound is the preferred imaging modality for the diagnosis and monitoring of pregnant women and their unborn infants.

- Ultrasound provides real-time imaging, making it a good tool for guiding minimally invasive procedures such as needle biopsies and needle aspiration of fluid in joints or elsewhere.


For standard diagnostic ultrasound there are no known harmful effects on humans.

What are the limitations of General Ultrasound Imaging?

Ultrasound waves are reflected by air or gas; therefore ultrasound is not an ideal imaging technique for the bowel. Barium exams and CT scanning are the methods of choice for bowel-related problems.

Ultrasound waves do not pass through air; therefore an evaluation of the stomach, small intestine and large intestine may be limited. Intestinal gas may also prevent visualization of deeper structures such as the pancreas and aorta. Patients who are obese are more difficult to image because tissue attenuates (weakens) the sound waves as they pass deeper into the body. Ultrasound has difficulty penetrating bone and therefore can only see the outer surface of bony structures and not what lies within. For visualizing internal structure of bones or certain joints, other imaging modalities such asMRI are typically used.

• Can I eat and drink afterwards?

Yes. Follow your normal dietary routine.




Ultrasound Tests Tutorial


red_bullet 2-D & M-MODE ECHO
red_bullet COLOR FLOW

  • 2-D & M-MODE ECHO – This exam uses sound waves to produce images of the heart as it is beating. This enables the Cardiologist to evaluate your valves, size of the heart chambers, and the strength and thickness of your heart muscle. The complete exam takesapproximately 45 minutes. There are no special preparations or instructions for this exam.

  • DOPPLER – This exam is usually performed with the echocardiogram. The Doppler uses sound waves, which reflect off the moving red blood cells within the heart chambers. The Doppler reveals the speed and direction of blood flow within the heart, which is helpful inevaluating valve function.

  • COLOR FLOW - This is usually done in conjunction with the Doppler test. It shows the speed and direction of blood flow in color. The color allows the Cardiologist to "map" abnormalities in blood flowing through the heart and great vessels.

Cardiac Symptoms: Hypertension, Chest Pain, Murmur, Syncope, Arrhythmia, Suspected coronary artery disease, Valvular heart disease, Endocarditis, Pulmonary disease, Cardiac masses, Evaluation of ventricular function, Stroke, Peripheral emboli involving major arteries, and Family history of genetic cardiac disorder.




CAROTID – This exam uses sound waves to visualize the right and left common carotid arteries from the base of the neck to above the bifurcation of the internal and external carotid arteries. The vertebral artery (posterior in the neck) is also imaged. The physician evaluates the images to determine to what extent these arteries are blocked. Doppler is used to show how much blood is flowing to your brain and eyes. The length of this test is 45 minutes. No preparation is needed.

 Symptoms: Cervical or carotid bruit, Memory loss, Cluster type headache, Vertigo, Aphasia/dysphasia, Previous stroke, Motor or sensory deficit, Syncope, Fluctuating confusion, Amaurosis Fugax (transient monocular blindness), Unilateral paralysis/weakness, Drop attacks, and Coronary or peripheral artery disease.





LOWER EXTREMITIES ARTERIAL – This exam uses sound waves to obtain images and evaluate the arterial blood flow from the pelvis to the foot. The images and Doppler waveforms are analyzed by a Cardiologist to determine the location and extent of blockages. This exam takes approximately 45 minutes per leg. No preparation is needed. We highly recommend both legs be scanned for comparative results.

Arterial Symptoms: Claudication, Leg pain, Rest pain, Bruits, Gangrene, Diabetic neuropathy, Skin color changes orulceration, Absent or diminished distal or pedal pulses, Distal extremity hair loss, Skin or nail infections, Hypertension, and Extreme weakness or fatigue.

 LOWER EXTREMITIES VENOUS – This exam uses sound waves to visualize the veins from the pelvis to the foot. Doppler is used to evaluate blood flow in the veins. The physician views these images to determine the presence of a blood clot or venous abnormality. This exam takes approximately 45 minutes per leg. There is no preparation for this exam. Please specify which leg or both.

 Venous Symptoms: Edema, Pitting edema, Pain, Increased limb tenderness, Anti-coagulant therapy evaluation, Skin discoloration, Ulcers, Varicose veins and Pulmonary embolism.

UPPER EXTREMITIES VENOUS or ARTERIAL – These exams use sound waves and Doppler to evaluate the veins or arteries in the arm. Your own physician will indicate which is needed. The Upper Extremity Venous will visualize the presence of a blood clot. The Upper Extremity Arterial is done to determine the severity of an arterial blockage. This testing takes less than one hour. No preparation is needed. Please specify which arm or both.

Venous Symptoms: Edema, Pain- tenderness, ulcers

 Arterial Symptoms: Arm pain, skin or nail infections, Skin color changes or ulceration, absent or diminished pulses, gangrene, numbness and Positive Allen's test.

red_bullet GALLBLADDER
red_bullet PANCREAS
red_bullet LIVER/SPLEEN

COMPLETE ABDOMINAL – This exam is done to image the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, pancreas and spleen. The test takes less than one hour. Prior to this exam, nothing should be eaten ordrank for 8 hours. Medication may be taken. 
GALLBLADDER / LIVER– This exam is done to image the liver, gallbladder, intra & extra hepatic biliary ductal system. The test takes less than 30 minutes. Prior to this exam, nothing should be eaten or drank for 8 hours. Medication may be taken. 

 Symptoms: Right or left upper quadrant or flank pain, Abnormal lab values, Abdominal mass, Suspected gallstones or bile duct stones, Jaundice, Suspected pancreatic disease, Ascities, Unexplained weight loss, Cirrhosis,Nausea/vomiting, and Portal hypertension. 

RENAL / BLADDER / ABDOMINAL AORTA – This examines kidneys, renal and abdominal vessels, lymph nodes and especially the abdominal aorta. Measurements are taken in various planes.The test takes less than one hour. Prior to this, there should be nothing eaten or drank for 8 hours. Medication may be taken. 

 Symptoms: Hematuria, Flank or lower back pain, Urinary tract infection, Abnormal lab values, Dysuria, Signs of renal failure, mass, and Suspected abdominal aortic aneurysm.

red_bullet PELVIC
red_bullet THYROID

PELVIC ULTRASOUND – This exam is done to image the uterus, ovaries, vagina, urinary bladder and the surrounding region. Measurements are taken. The test takes 30 minutes. A full bladder is important; this helps push the bowel to the side so the pelvic organs are more easily seen. One hour before the test, drink 4-6 large glasses of water. 

 Symptoms: Pelvic or abdominal pain, Pelvic inflammatory disease, Palpable mass, Irregular menstrual cycle,Infertility, Endometriosis, Polycystic ovarian disease, Ovarian cysts, Vaginal bleeding or discharges, Hematoma, Ascites and Unexplained weight loss.

THYROID ULTRASOUND– Imaging and measurements are taken in various planes of the right and left lobes of the thyroid. The test takes 30 minutes. No preparation is needed. 

 Symptoms: Abnormal thyroid function, Mass, and Hypercalcemia