What is Ultrasound Imaging?
Diagnostic medical ultrasound is a way to create images of anatomic areas for the purposes of measurement or diagnosis. It uses no radiation but instead transmits high frequency sound waves (2 to 12 MHz) into the body, and the returning echoes are processed by a computer into pictures which are interpreted by a radiologist. These sound waves are painless, and there are no known harmful effects at the low intensities used by modern diagnostic ultrasound equipment. Ultrasound cannot penetrate through bone, or gas in the intestines. It does pass readily through fluid. A warm gel is applied to the skin to conduct the sound waves from the transducer into the body. 

What preparation is needed?
See below for the specific preparation for a particular exam.

What should I wear?
Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes. Depending on the exam, you may be asked to change into a gown.

How long will it take?
You should allow one hour, although your examination may be shorter. When the examination is finished, you will usually be asked to wait while the images obtained by the sonographer are shown to the radiologist. In some cases, the radiologist will also scan.

When can I resume normal activities?
Immediately after the exam.

When can my physician expect my results?
A HVI radiologist will study the images and provide a written report which includes a description of the findings, any diagnosis that can be made from the exam, as well as a recommendation for further studies if needed. Our reports are usually available within 24 hours of completion of the examination, and are generally received by your physician within that same 24 hour period. A report may be delayed if we are awaiting studies from an outside facility for comparison purposes. If the results are urgent or if you are seeing your doctor on the same day as your exam, our radiologist will provide a preliminary report that will be faxed to your doctor, or in some cases, discussed directly with your doctor.

Types of Ultrasound Exams

Abdominal Ultrasound
Designed to look at the internal organs of the abdomen, including liver, spleen, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas, kidneys, and aorta. Typical reasons for your doctor to order an abdominal ultrasound include abdominal pain, question of gallstones, fluid (ascites) in the abdominal cavity, abdominal aortic aneurysm, kidney obstruction, and sometimes hernias or appendicitis.

Preparation:  You may have liquids up until six hours before the exam.  Take nothing by mouth six hours prior to the examination.

Pelvic Ultrasound
A pelvic ultrasound in a female is performed to evaluate the internal pelvic organs, including uterus and ovaries. Typical concerns that might cause your doctor to order a pelvic ultrasound include pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, abnormalities of the ovary including cysts, and fibroids of the uterus.

Pelvic ultrasound in a female is usually done both through the lower abdominal skin (transabdominal) as well as through the vagina (transvaginal). A specialized ultrasound transducer is inserted into the vagina, either by you or by the technologist, to allow for better visualization of the uterus and ovaries than can usually be obtained transabdominally.

Preparation:  You will need to drink at least 32 ounces of water prior to your exam (or other clear non carbonated liquid). Finish drinking this one hour before your exam. Do not empty your bladder before having the ultrasound.

Obstetric Ultrasound
Obstetric ultrasound is used to evaluate all stages of pregnancy. The unborn baby (fetus) will be measured, which gives an estimate of its age and weight. When it is large enough, its anatomy can be carefully examined. In later pregnancy its growth over time can be followed. Other aspects of pregnancy such as the amount of fluid around the fetus and the placenta are also evaluated.

Preparation: You will need to drink at least 32 ounces of water prior to your exam (or other clear non carbonated liquid). Finish drinking this one hour before your exam. Do not empty your bladder before having the ultrasound.

Thyroid Ultrasound
The thyroid gland is typically evaluated for reasons of enlargement (goiter) or a palpable nodule, or abnormal blood tests of thyroid function. The parathyroid glands (adjacent to the thyroid gland) are not usually seen, but may be enlarged and visible if there is an abnormal blood test suggesting abnormal parathyroid function.

Preparation: No specific preparation, but you will need to be able to lie on your back with your neck slightly extended backwards over a pillow.

Renal (Kidney) Ultrasound
Although the kidneys are evaluated as a part of an abdominal ultrasound, they may be examined also as a specific, more limited exam. The bladder in the pelvis is also examined.

Preparation: You will need to drink at least 32 ounces of water prior to your exam (or other clear non carbonated liquid). Finish drinking this one hour before your exam. Do not empty your bladder before having the ultrasound.

Musculoskeletal Ultrasound (example: Shoulder, Hand, Foot, Finger)
Specialized ultrasound transducers, designed for high-resolution images of superficial tissues, can be used to look at the tendons of the rotator cuff of the shoulder, in cases of possible tendon injury. In cases of palpable lumps or trauma involving other superficial soft tissues, or foreign bodies such as a sliver or imbedded glass, ultrasound can often identify and characterize such abnormalities.

Preparation: None.

Testicular Ultrasound
A specialized ultrasound transducer designed to evaluate superficial tissues will be used to obtain high resolution images of the testicles and adjacent structures, typically performed in cases of pain, infection, trauma, or question of palpable lumps or tumor.

Preparation: None.

Vascular Ultrasound
Ultrasound imaging of the body's veins and arteries can help the radiologist see and evaluate blockages to blood flow, such as clots in veins and plaque in arteries. With knowledge about the arterial blood flow gained from an ultrasound image, the radiologist can often determine whether a patient is a good candidate for a procedure like angioplasty.

Ultrasound of the veins may reveal blood clots that require treatment such as anticoagulant therapy (blood thinner), or filters to prevent clots from traveling to the lungs (embolism).

Ultrasound of the vascular system also provides a fast, noninvasive means of identifying blockages of blood flow in the neck arteries to the brain that might produce a stroke or mini-stroke.

Preparation: For lower extremity arterial studies, take a laxative in the afternoon one day prior to your study.  Have a light evening dinner and take nothing by mouth after midnight.  For venous studies, no preparation is needed.