An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create a picture (also known as a sonogram) of organs, tissues, and other structures inside the body. Unlike x-rays, ultrasounds don’t use any radiation. An ultrasound can also show parts of the body in motion, such as a heart beating or blood flowing through blood vessels.
There are two main categories of ultrasounds: pregnancy ultrasound and diagnostic ultrasound.:
- Pregnancy ultrasoundPregnancy ultrasound is used to look at an unborn baby. The test can provide information about a baby’s growth, development, and overall health.
- Diagnostic ultrasoundDiagnostic ultrasound is used to view and provide information about other internal parts of the body. These include the heart, blood vessels, liver, bladder, kidneys, and female reproductive organs.
An ultrasound can be used in different ways, depending on the type of ultrasound and which part of the body is being checked.
You may need a ultrasound if you are pregnant. There is no radiation used in the test. It offers a safe way of checking the health of your unborn baby.
You may need diagnostic ultrasound if you have symptoms in certain organs or tissues. These include the heart, kidneys, thyroid, gallbladder, and female reproductive system. You may also need ultrasound if you are getting a biopsy. The ultrasound helps your health care provider get a clear image of the area that is being tested.
A ultrasound usually includes the following steps:
- You will lie on a table, exposing the area that’s being viewed.
- A health care provider will spread a special gel on the skin over that area.
- The provider will move a wand-like device, called a transducer, over the area.
- The device sends sound waves into your body. The waves are so high pitched that you can’t hear them.
- The waves are recorded and turned into images on a monitor.
- You may be able to view the images as they are being made. This often happens during a pregnancy ultrasound, allowing you to look at your unborn baby.
- After the test is over, the provider will wipe the gel off your body.
- The test takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete.