An ultrasound scan is a procedure that used high frequency sound waves to create an image. As no radiation is used it is considered a safe type of imaging used in the diagnosis and management of many different conditions within the abdomen, pelvis, small parts and musculoskeletal systems. Ultrasound scans are commonly used during pregnancy to produce images of the baby in the womb.
Most ultrasound scans don’t take long to perform, typically between 15 and 45 minutes. Your ultrasound scan will take place in the radiology or maternity department and be performed either by a sonographer or a radiologist, who will provide a diagnostic report. A sonographer is a specialist trained in the use of ultrasound. A radiologist is a doctor who specialises in all types of imaging.
Before having some types of ultrasound scan, you may be asked to follow certain instructions before the procedure, such as:
- drink water and not go to the toilet until after the test – this is to fill your bladder and may be needed before a scan of your pelvis or your unborn baby.
- avoid eating for several hours before the scan – this may be needed before a scan of your abdomen. Please contact the department if you are diabetic.
A small handheld device called a transducer is moved over the body part under examination with lubricating gel that is put onto your skin. The gel allows the transducer to move smoothly ensuring there is continuous contact between the sensor and the skin. The transducer is connected to a computer and a monitor and produces diagnostic images. You should not feel anything other than the transducer and gel on your skin.
Once the ultrasound scan is complete, a report of the findings will be sent to the doctor who referred you for the scan.