Ultrasound: Exams & Preparations

What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound or sonography produces real-time, multi-dimensional images of the body’s internal organs and tissues by mapping the reflections or “echoes” of high-frequency sound waves. Ultrasound is especially useful for examining the bladder, uterus, ovaries, prostate, testicles and scrotum, and for obtaining images of fetuses in the womb. Millions of expectant parents have seen the first “picture” of their unborn child with pelvic ultrasound examinations of the uterus and fetus.

About the procedure:

You will lie on your back on an examining table. The sonographer will spread some warm gel on your skin and then press the transducer, or probe, which is a hand-held device that sends and receives ultrasound signals, firmly against your skin sweeping it back and forth until the desired images are captured. In a transvaginal or transrectal ultrasound, a thin wand-like transducer will be covered, lubricated and placed in the area to be examined. The examination usually takes less than 30 minutes.

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What to expect when having an ultrasound:

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. Other preparation depends on the type of examination you will have. For some scans your doctor may instruct you not to eat or drink for as many as 12 hours before your appointment. For others 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. Most ultrasound examinations are painless, fast and easy. There may be varying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the technologist guides the transducer over your skin, especially if you are required to have a full bladder.

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