Information for Adult Patients having an Ultrasound Scan
What is an Ultrasound Scan?
An ultrasound scan builds up a picture of part of the inside of the body using sound waves of a frequency above the audible range of the human ear. A small hand-held sensor, which is pressed carefully against the skin surface, both generates sound waves and detects any echoes reflected back off the surface and tissue boundaries of internal organs. The sensor can be moved over the skin to view the organ from different angles, the pictures being displayed on a TV monitor screen and recorded for subsequent study.
Ultrasound images complement other forms of scans and are widely used for many different parts of the body. They can also be used to study blood flow and to detect any narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, for example, in the neck.
Are there any risks?
No, there are no known risks - the procedure is considered to be very safe.
Can I bring a friend or relative with me?
Yes, with pleasure!
You will be advised if you have to remove any clothes upon entering the examination room. For some examinations you will be asked to put on the hospital gown and dressing gown provided, but you may prefer to bring your own.
Who will I see?
You will be cared for by a sonographer depending upon the type of investigation you are having. During the scan, the sonographer will look at the images on the television screen, and if necessary, look at the record of the images later, before writing a report.
What happens during the scan?
You will be asked some questions about your health and in particular your current symptoms and the doctor may examine you briefly. You will be invited to lie down on the couch, and the lights in the room may be dimmed so that the pictures on the television screen can be seen more clearly. A gel will be applied to your skin over the area to be scanned, for example the abdomen. This gel allows the sensor to slide easily over the skin and helps to produce clearer pictures.
The sonographer sits or stands besides you, slowly moving the sensor over your skin while viewing the images on the screen. Records of selected images will be made so that they can be viewed later. Upon completion, the gel will be wiped off and you will be free to get dressed.
Will it be uncomfortable?
Ultrasound itself does not produce discomfort and apart from the sensor on your skin you will not feel anything. If a full bladder is required, though, there may be some associated discomfort. Ultrasound is often carried out to try and find out the reason why a patient has severe abdominal or pelvic pain. In these circumstances, some pressure may be applied to the skin surface over an inflamed organ such as the gallbladder to see what is causing the pain. This may increase the amount of pain coming from that organ temporarily, but would be no worse than, for example, being examined by a doctor on a ward.
How long will it take?
The process of carrying out a scan usually takes about 5 - 15 minutes.
Are there any side-effects?
No. You can drive home afterwards, and return to work if necessary.
Can I eat and drink afterwards?
Yes, do so normally.
When will I get the results?
After the scan, the images will be examined further by the sonographer who will prepare a report. This will then be given to your doctor. You will be given a picture which will also have the Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD) printed on it.