An ultrasound scan uses high frequency wave sounds to create an image of an organ in the body. Ultrasound is very high frequency sound that cannot be heard by the human ear, but can be detected using a machine called an ultrasound scanner.
It can be used to look at all soft tissue structures and blood vessels. It cannot be used to look at bones or the lungs or gastro-intestinal tract in detail.
An ultrasound scan does not use x-rays. The ultrasound waves are delivered by a small handheld sensor, which is similar to a microphone. As sound waves are used, rather than radiation, the procedure is thought to be completely safe.
As well as being used to monitor an unborn baby in a pregnant woman, ultrasound is also used to highlight congenital heart disease, examine the prostate gland, uterus and ovaries and other organs of the body. Ultrasound is also used during surgery such as biopsies (where the tissue sample is taken for analysis).
For some procedures you may be asked to fill your bladder by drinking plenty of water. For other procedures, you may be asked not to eat or drink anything for up to four hours before the test. Your consultant will give you advice.
The examination will be carried out by a consultant radiologist. Usually an ultrasound procedure will take between fifteen minutes and half an hour, but it depends on the examination.
You will be asked to lie down on a couch. Some cold gel will be applied to your body – this enables the sensor, which is passed over your skin, to pick up sound waves and an image of the part of the body being scanned is produced. The gel may be cold.
If you are, or there is a possibility you may be, pregnant please tell the radiographer before your scan.
For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.
Continue taking your normal medication unless you are told otherwise.
If you are diabetic please tell the radiology department.
It’s helpful if you bring any previous X-rays with you.
Results will usually be sent to the doctor who referred you within two days of your ultrasound scan.
Paying for your procedure
Ultraound scan costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the procedure will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the consultant radiologist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.