Ultrasound Scan : What It is, Preparation & Procedure ?


The imaging technique of diagnostic ultrasonography, also known as sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, uses sound waves to create pictures of the internal organs and other structures in your body. A number of illnesses and ailments may be diagnosed, and therapy can be planned using the photos.

While certain ultrasound exams require inserting a tiny device into your body, most ultrasound examinations use ultrasound equipment that is outside of your body.

Why is it done?

There are several uses for ultrasound, including:

  • Monitor the uterus and ovaries closely during pregnancy, and keep a watch on the baby's wellbeing.
  • Identify gallbladder illness
  • Assess the blood flow
  • Lead the needle during a biopsy or tumor treatment.
  • Check a breast lump.
  • Verify your thyroid function
  • Identify genitalia and prostate issues
  • Evaluation of joint inflammation (synovitis)
  • Consider metabolic bone disease

What is an Ultrasound Scan?

High-frequency sound waves are used during an ultrasound scan, also known as a sonogram, to produce a picture of a portion of the body's interior.

An ultrasound scan can be used to keep track of a developing child, identify a medical issue, or direct a surgeon during certain operations. It makes use of an ultrasonic probe, a small device that produces high-frequency sound waves.

Although you can not hear these sound waves, when they reverberate off various body parts, they produce "echoes," which the probe detects and converts into a moving picture. While the scan is running, this image is shown on a monitor.

The majority of ultrasound scans last 15 to 45 minutes. In the radiology department of a hospital, they are frequently performed by a doctor, radiographer, or sonographer.

They may also be carried out by other healthcare professionals, such as midwives or physiotherapists who have received specialized training in ultrasonography, in community settings like GP offices.

Depending on the body part being scanned and the purpose of the ultrasound, there are many types of scans available.

There are 3 primary types:

Internal ultrasound scan: the probe is put into the body

Endoscopic ultrasound scan: the probe is attached to a long, thin, flexible tube (an endoscope) and passed farther into the body. 

An ultrasound probe is moved across the skin during an external scan.

Risk Factors

Low-power sound waves are used during the safe diagnostic ultrasonography process. No dangers are recognised.

Although an excellent instrument, ultrasound has certain drawbacks. As sound waves do not propagate effectively through air or bone, ultrasonography is ineffective at imaging bodily areas like the brain and lungs that contain gas or are covered by bone. Additionally, deep inside the human body items may be invisible to ultrasound. Your doctor may request further imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans or X-rays, to assess these regions.


Most ultrasound tests do not involve any prior planning. There are a few exceptions, though:

  • Your healthcare professional can require that you refrain from eating or drinking for a particular amount of time prior to some tests, such as gallbladder ultrasound.
  • Some procedures, like a pelvic scan, could call for a full bladder. How much water you should consume before the examination will be specified by your doctor. Wait until the exam is over before leaving.
  • Young children might require extra preparation. Ask your doctor if there are any particular guidelines you need to follow before scheduling an ultrasound for yourself or your child.
  • Dress comfortably during your ultrasound visit. During your ultrasound, you could be requested to take off your jewellery, so leave any valuables at home if possible.

Before Procedure

The following may be required of you prior to your ultrasound:

  • Jewellery should be taken off the area being checked.
  • All or a portion of your clothes should be changed or removed.
  • Put on your gown.
  • On a test table, you will be requested to lie down.

During Procedure

Your skin is covered in gel over the region being checked. Air pockets can interfere with the sound waves that produce the pictures, therefore it helps avoid them. It is simple to remove this secure, water-based gel from the skin and, if necessary, clothes.

A tiny, handheld instrument (transducer) is pressed against the region being analyzed by a qualified technician (sonographer), who moves it as necessary to take pictures. The visuals are produced by a computer using the sound waves that the transducer transmits into your body and gathers when they return.

Ultrasounds can occasionally be performed within the body. In this instance, a probe with a transducer attached is put into a bodily orifice that is already there. 

Examples comprise:

Echocardiography transesophageal. An oesophagal transducer is placed to get heart pictures. Usually, sedation is used during the procedure.

Ultrasonography of the transrectus. By inserting a specialised transducer into the rectum, this test produces pictures of the prostate.

Transvaginal sonography. To see the uterus and ovaries, a special transducer is softly placed into the vagina.

Normally, ultrasound causes little discomfort. However, if you are needed to have a full bladder, you may feel some slight discomfort while the sonographer puts the transducer into your body or moves it across your body.

An ultrasound examination typically lasts 30 to 60 minutes. You might be requested to follow specific recommendations before some ultrasound scans in order to enhance the quality of the images obtained.

  • It may be important to drink water and postpone using the toilet until after a scan of your pelvic area or unborn child.
  • Eat nothing or drink nothing for a few hours before the scan since your digestive tract, particularly the liver and gallbladder, may need to be scanned.
  • Depending on the area of your body being examined, the hospital may ask you to remove some clothing and put on a hospital gown.
  • A tiny catheter will be inserted into your vein to provide any sedatives you require to help you unwind either into your arm or the back of your hand.
  • You may occasionally be injected with a contrast agent before to the scan, a safe medication that can help the pictures look sharper.


After your examination is finished, a medical professional (radiologist) who has been educated to interpret imaging studies reviews the pictures and provides a report to your doctor. You will be informed of the findings by your doctor.

Following an ultrasound, you should be able to resume your regular activities right away.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 20, 2023

Next review due: Mar 20, 2025

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