Home Health What Is an Ultrasound Scan? – 2024 Guide

What Is an Ultrasound Scan? – 2024 Guide

by Cristina Alexander

Ultrasound scan is a procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce live images of parts inside the body. This is also known as sonography. Ultrasound scans are safe because they use echoes to create the images, instead of radiation.

How does an ultrasound scan machine work?

An ultrasound scan machine uses a small device called an ultrasound probe, which releases high-frequency sound waves. These sound waves cannot be heard, ​​but when they bounce off different parts of the body, they create echoes. These echoes are picked up by the ‘probe’ and converted into moving images.

1. Ultrasound scanner

Source: medicalnewstoday.com

The ultrasound scanner consists of the following components –

  • Transducer probe – sends and receives the sound waves or ‘echoes’
  • Transducer pulse control – changes the duration and frequency of the pulses released
  • Central processing unit (CPU) – portion of a computer that contains the electrical power supply and carries out the instructions
  • Display – displays the images produced
  • Keyboard/Cursor – inputs the data and measurements
  • Printer – prints the images of the displayed data

2. Ultrasound scan uses

An ultrasound scan can be used to monitor a developing fetus (unborn baby), different organs, muscles, blood vessels, and the human heart. It can also help guide doctors during certain procedures.

3. Physical symptoms

Ultrasound scan helps doctors monitor physical symptoms, such as:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection

4. Internal Organs

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Ultrasound scan helps doctors monitor the body’s internal organs, such as:

  • The heart
  • Blood vessels
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Bladder
  • Uterus, ovaries, and an unborn child
  • The scrotum (testicles)
  • In infants (brain, spine, and hip of an infant)

5. Other purposes

Ultrasound scan helps doctors for other purposes as well, such as:

  • Guide procedures such as biopsies
  • Diagnose heart condition(s)
  • Detect any tumors in the body
  • View and evaluate any blockages to blood flow (such as clots)

If you have a medical condition with any of the above, then your doctor would recommend you to get an ultrasound scan done for proper diagnosis. If you are from Gurgaon, India, then get tested at a nearby lab with LabsAdvisor.com.

Ultrasound scan types

There are various types of ultrasound scans that a person can get. Some of these include –

1. Ultrasound scan; Abdomen

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An ultrasound scan of the abdomen shows us the many organs in the abdomen. It helps the doctor to evaluate the cause of stomach pain or bloating and monitor kidney stones, liver disease, tumors, and many other conditions. Abdominal ultrasounds can also be used to guide procedures like biopsies.

Your doctor may suggest an ultrasound scan of the abdomen if you are facing a problem in the following areas –

  • Intestines
  • Blood vessels in the abdomen
  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Pancreas

2. Ultrasound scan; Kidney

The kidneys are the filtration system of our body. They filter the waste products out of the blood in the form of urine.

An ultrasound scan of the kidney allows the doctor to evaluate the size, location, and shape of your kidneys and related structures, including the bladder.

Your doctor may suggest an ultrasound scan of the kidney for the following reasons –

  • To identify any fluid-filled cyst
  • To identify whether a lump can turn into a tumor
  • Any obstructions in or around the kidneys
  • Fluid collection
  • Infections in or around the kidneys

3. Ultrasound scan; Pregnancy

An ultrasound scan is used to evaluate the baby’s health and development, help pick up any abnormalities or complications during pregnancy and help identify multiple pregnancies.

The biggest advantage here is the non-invasive and painless nature of the ultrasound scan, making it safe for both the mother and unborn baby.

Your doctor may suggest an ultrasound scan during pregnancy for the following reasons –

  • To confirm the pregnancy and its location
  • To determine the number of babies
  • To know the baby’s gestational age (describes how far along the pregnancy is)
  • In case the doctor has concerns about the health of your baby
  • To investigate complications
  • To evaluate the baby’s growth
  • To perform other prenatal tests

4. Ultrasound scan; Breasts

Source: healthline.com

A breast ultrasound scan is often done to evaluate the structure of the breasts. It is primarily used to help diagnose breast lumps or other abnormalities your doctor may have found during a physical exam or breast MRI.

Your doctor may suggest an ultrasound scan of the breasts for the following reasons –

  • To investigate cysts
  • To check on any unwanted fluids
  • To check the existence of any tumor or lumps

Ultrasound scan preparation

How can I prepare for an ultrasound scan?

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Depending on the part of the body that is getting tested, the doctor may provide the patient with the following instructions

  • To drink a sufficient amount of water and not go to the toilet until after the scan
  • To eat a light meal, the night before the test.
  • Fasting (avoiding eating for a certain amount of time)

These instructions help in producing better images which in turn leads to better evaluation of the body.

On arrival at the hospital, the patient may be asked to remove some items of clothing and change into a hospital gown for the ultrasound scan.

All items containing metal must be removed before the ultrasound scan. Some of these items include –

  • Jewelry
  • Mobile phone
  • Watches
  • Keys
  • Hearing aids
  • Glasses
  • Dentures (false teeth)
  • Underwire (bras)
  • Belts and buckles
  • Any clothing item that may contain metallic threads

In case –

  1. the patient is experiencing any anxiety, sedatives can be used to help calm them during the process.
  2. the patient has any latex allergies, the doctor should be informed in advance so they can avoid using a latex-covered probe.

There are some cases where the patient may not need to do anything before an ultrasound scan.

Note: If you take any medications, talk to your doctor before fasting for an ultrasound test. You might have to take your normal dose at a different time or at the same time with less water.

Ultrasound scan procedure

Source: medicalnewstoday.com

What is the procedure for an ultrasound scan?

  1. On arrival at the hospital, the ultrasound scan procedure usually takes place in the following manner :
  2. ​​Depending on the part of the body that is being examined, the patient may be asked to change into a gown. The patient is then asked to remove all metal items
  3. A form is then filled out by the patient in order to take safety precautions and the patient is free to discuss any issues/concerns with the doctor
  4. On entering the ultrasound room, the patient is made to lie down on the bed next to the computer
  5. A thick layer of ultrasound scan gel is applied to the skin over the area being examined (this is a water-based gel and is easy to remove from the skin)
  6. The doctor then uses a small device against the skin and moves it as needed to produce the required images

Ultrasound scan side-effects

There are no known side effects to an ultrasound scan. Unlike X-rays and CT scans, an ultrasound scan does not involve any exposure to radiation and is generally painless and risk-free.

How much time does an ultrasound scan take?

Ultrasound scans can last between 15 minutes to 60 minutes. They usually take place in the radiology department of the hospital.