Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays). Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs.
In medicine, ultrasound is used to detect changes in the appearance of organs and tissues or detect abnormal masses, such as tumors. In an ultrasound examination, a transducer both sends out sound waves and records the echoing waves. When the transducer is pressed against the skin, it directs small pulses of inaudible, high-frequency sound waves into the body. As the sound waves bounce off internal organs, fluids, and tissues, the sensitive microphone in the transducer records tiny changes in the sound’s pitch and direction. These signature waves are instantly measured and displayed by a computer, which in turn creates a real-time picture on the monitor. One or more frames of the moving pictures are typically captured as still images.
In the Cincinnati, OH area, breast and general ultrasound exams are performed at the ProScan Pink Ribbon Center – Red Bank and the ProScan Pink Ribbon Center – Tri-County. Separate ultrasound examination areas for both men and women are available to ensure privacy.
Generally, no preparation is needed. If your doctor has ordered a test to rule out abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), we require that you do not take anything by mouth after midnight except for oral medication (with water if necessary).
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You may need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined. You also may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.
What to Expect
Most ultrasound examinations are painless, fast, and easy. The patient is positioned lying face-up on an examination table that can be tilted or moved. The radiologist or sonographer will apply some warm, water-based gel on your skin and then place the transducer firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured.
There is usually no discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined. If scanning is performed over an area of tenderness, however, you may feel pressure or minor pain from the transducer.
Advantages of Ultrasound
Most ultrasound scanning is noninvasive (no needles or injections) and painless. Ultrasound is widely available, easy to use, and cost-effective. This procedure provides a clear picture of soft tissues that do not show up well on x-ray images and can be repeated as often as necessary without any health side effects.
Common uses of ultrasound include:
- Evaluating symptoms such as pain, swelling, and infection
- Examining many of the body’s internal organs, including heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder
- Guiding procedures such as needle biopsies
- Imaging of the breasts and guiding breast cancer biopsies
- Diagnosing a variety of heart conditions and assessing damage after a heart attack
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is an ultrasound painful?
There is practically no discomfort to the patient, aside from the light pressure the technologist may apply with the ultrasonic probe.
2. What are the risks involved with ultrasound?
The noninvasive nature of ultrasound minimizes any risk to the patient. There are no dyes, injections, or radiation involved.
3. How much time does it take?
Most ultrasound studies can be completed within 30-45 minutes.
4. What does an ultrasound cost?
Ultrasound studies are significantly less expensive than many related studies. Most insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid cover ultrasound services offered by ProScan Imaging.
5. Who performs the tests?
These tests are performed by certified technologists. Their standards are exceptionally high.