An ultrasound is a way of making pictures of the body using sound waves. The sound used is very high pitched so that it is above the level of human hearing. The technologist making the pictures uses a hand held device called a probe. After placing some gel on the skin of the patient, the probe is moved slowly over the skin to make the pictures. The probe makes the sound which enters the body and bounces back, giving a picture of the inner parts of the body. The same principle is also used by bats to see in the dark. Ultrasound is not a harmful type of radiation.The sound used is very safe for the patient, even if she is pregnant. Ultrasound is very useful for examining blood vessels, small parts of the human body and the abdomen and pelvis.
Many ultrasound exams do not require preparation, however some do. The specific preparation for the type of exam you are having may vary depending on which facility you go to. When you schedule your exam you will receive specific instructions. Expect to have special instructions for ultrasound examinations of the pelvis, abdomen and gallbladder. Pelvic exams may require drinking fluids before the exam to fill the bladder. Abdomen and gallbladder exams usually require fasting for a period of several hours before the exam. Again, if you require special instructions for your exam, you will receive them when you schedule the exam.
After coming to the imaging facility, you will probably be taken to a waiting room to do any last minute preparation. The technologist may have you change to a gown depending on the type or exam you are having. You will be positioned on a padded table in a private examination room. The technologist will explain the steps in the exam and position you during the study. He or she will place the ultrasound gel on your skin in the area to be examined. They will then take a series of pictures with the ultrasound probe, often stopping to ask you to “take a deep breath” or “hold your breath” while they take the picture. Sometimes multiple probes are used to do different parts of the exam. The radiologist may come in and look during the exam as well, though not always. After the exam, the technologist will help you clean off the gel and you will dress and leave the department.