Ultrasound – What is it?
An Ultrasound scanning is a medical examination wherein live images of the organs inside your body are captured. The medical test uses sound waves of high-frequency, and is also called sonography.
This technology is parallel to the one, which is applied in sonar and radar by the military and paramilitary forces, for detecting planes and ships. With the help of an ultrasound, your doctor can examine problems with organs, tissues and vessels without making an incision(s), as are required in the laparoscopy procedure.
Ultrasound does not use radiations, unlike many other imaging procedures. Simply for this reason, it is considered the preferred procedure for screening the developing stages of a baby, such as zygote, embryo and fetus, during your pregnancy.
Mostly, people link ultrasound scanning with pregnancy. Yes, an expectant mother can have her first look at her yet-to-be-born baby with the help of the ultrasound scanning. However, the examination is not limited to utilizing it just for this purpose.
Its scope is much wider and the procedure is used for many other diagnoses. Your treating doctor may ask you to have an ultrasound done, in case you have lately been experiencing swelling, pain or any other symptoms. With the help of ultrasound, your doctor may like to observe and examine your internal organs, such as:
- Brain (Cranial ultrasound is mostly performed on infants)
- Blood vessels
- Male/Female Reproductive Organs, such as:
During some medical procedures, like biopsies and ascertaining the reasons of miscarriage, etc., ultrasound also helps in guiding the surgeon’s movements.
Preparing for an ultrasound?
The steps for preparing you for an ultrasound will all depend on the region or the organ that needs scrutiny or examination. Your doctor may ask you to go on fasting for about 8 – 12 hours before he or she performs an ultrasound on you. This is necessary, especially, if the doctor wants to examine your abdominal organs. The undigested food may interfere and block or partially block the sound waves and may provide the incorrect diagnosis. For getting a clearer picture, your fasting is necessary, especially, for examining the organs of your reproductive system.
For examining the other abdominal organs, other than the reproductive organs, such as gallbladder, pancreas, spleen or liver, your doctor may prohibit you from eating fatty foods the evening before conducting your test the next morning. And, in the morning when the test is to be conducted, you may be asked not to eat anything until the procedure is carried out.
However, you may carry on drinking water and taking medicines, as instructed. For your bladder examination, you may be told to drink plenty of water. You are also asked to hold your urine. Your bladder full with water will give a better and easier view of the organ to your doctor. If you have been taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medicines or any kind of herbal supplements, do tell your doctor before the examination.
The doctor will have a clear idea of the implications of these drugs on the outcome of the procedure. It is important for you to follow the directions given by your doctor. You may ask him or her any questions in case of any doubt in the procedure. An ultrasound holds nominal risks as it uses no radiation, unlike CT scan or X-rays. Simply because of this reason, the ultrasound scanning is the preferred choice for examining the developing fetus during your pregnancy.
How is an ultrasound carried out?
Before conducting the ultrasound examination, you may be asked to change into a clinic gown and lie down on a table with a portion of your body exposed for conducting the examination. The ultrasound technician, also known as the sonographer, shall apply a unique jelly on your skin. The jelly will have a lubricating effect to prevent any friction as the ultrasound transducer is rubbed on the skin. The transducer has an appearance as that of a microphone.
The special jelly helps in transmitting the sound waves. As the transducer is moved on a particular place of an organ, it throws sound waves of high-frequency all the way through your body. These waves reverberate as they hit a thick object, like an organ or a bone. The reverberations then get reflected in the attached computer to shape an image on the monitor. The images, thus, produced on the computer screen are read and interpreted by the treating doctor.
Depending on the organ or a part of the organ being examined, the sonographer may ask you to change your positions to have a better view of the organ. After your examination, the gel is cleaned off of the skin. The entire procedure usually takes less than half-an-hour, depending on the organ or its part being examined. You will be free to go about your normal activities after the procedure has finished.
After the ultrasound procedure
After the examination, your treating doctor will evaluate the images and look for any irregularities. The doctor may call you for discussing the findings or scheduling a follow-up meeting.
If anything abnormal is found on the ultrasound, the doctor may need confirmation with some other diagnostic technique, like MRI, a CT scan or a biopsy sample of the tissues of a particular organ. In case the doctor does not need any confirmation, he or she may start the treatment in the follow-up appointment.