Ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves beyond human hearing capability to produce high-quality images of soft tissues and motion within the body. Ultrasound involves no X-rays and can provide medical information that, in the past, may have required surgery.
Ultrasound can detect aneurysms, blood clots, damaged heart tissue, abnormal growths and diseased tissue; during pregnancy a baby's size, weight, position and physical condition can be determined. Ultrasound also is used to diagnose and treat muscle injuries and some joint problems.
The ultrasound procedure is simple and painless. A hand-held transducer emitting silent, high frequency sound waves is placed against the body and slowly passed over the area being examined. The sound waves pass through the skin and into the body. The returning sound waves or echoes are separated and identified by the transducer, then changed into electrical energy. Sophisticated equipment produces images on a video monitor and then on paper or film.
Most ultrasound exams require little or no preparation. In some cases, you may be asked to avoid gas-producing foods for one-to-two days, drink specific types and amounts of fluids, empty your bladder or follow other special instructions.
While you lie on a comfortable examination table, your technologist will apply a warm gel to your skin for air-free transducer contact. The technologist will then gently pass the transducer over the specified exam area several times. The exam will last about 45 minutes.