Navigate Up

Ultrasound Imaging

What is ultrasound imaging?

Ultrasound imaging, also known as sonography, is the measure of echoes throughout the body in the form of sound waves. Physicians use ultrasound to determine how far along a woman is in her pregnancy. These sound waves determine the size, shape, and position of the developing baby. Physicians also may use ultrasound imaging to detect tumors or other abnormalities in organs or tissues.  Unlike conventional x-rays, ultrasound does not need to use radiation. Ultrasound is generally safe for a developing baby and mother. A technologist applies a gel before placing and moving the transducer over the skin.

What are the benefits of ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a painless, non-invasive procedure, so there are no needles. Also, ultrasound imaging does not require the use of any ionizing radiation. Ultrasound is a safe, accurate way for physicians to see the progress of a pregnant woman’s developing baby. Physicians also look to ultrasound, a form of real-time imaging, to guide minimally invasive procedures, and to show movement and any abnormalities inside the body.

What happens during an ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of your body’s organs, or to check the blood flow through your veins and arteries. Ultrasound scanners consist of a computer, a video display screen, and a transducer. The transducer, similar to a microphone, is attached to the scanner. During the exam, a gel is placed on the skin over the part of your body to be imaged.  The physician moves the transducer to different positions to view parts of the body at different angles. The ultrasound image is immediately visible on a nearby video display screen that looks much like a computer or television monitor. The image is created based on the amplitude (strength), frequency, and time it takes for the sound signal to return from the patient to the transducer and the type of body structure the sound travels through. An ultrasound exam usually takes about 45 to 60 minutes.

Preparing for the test:

  • You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam (You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure).
  • For some exams, you may be asked not to eat or drink for as many as 12 hours before your appointment.
  • For some exams, you may be asked to drink up to six glasses of water two hours prior to your exam and avoid urinating so that your bladder is full when the scan begins.
  • For gallbladder or abdomen ultrasounds, you should have nothing to eat or drink six hours before the exam.
  • Do not chew gum or smoke for 6 hours before the exam.

What happens after the ultrasound?

Your ultrasound scans are interpreted by our board-certified radiologists, perinatologists, cardiologists, and a team of imaging specialists and delivered to your physician via our state-of-the-art computer system. If your images are ever needed, they can be accessed by any UPMC hospital or facility at any time of the day or night.

If you have any questions about preparing for your ultrasound exam, please call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).

 

Additional Information

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com