Ultrasound is a non-invasive investigation which is being used to monitor and diagnose conditions in many parts of the body. Some men's and women's tests including testicular, gynaecological and pregnancy scans are carried out using ultrasound. In the UK you can choose between private ultrasound and NHS ultrasound scans.
An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the interior organs of the human body. These images are displayed on a monitor and can then be stored electronically. The ultrasound scanner uses the same technology as the sonar used by ships. During your scan, a probe is passed over an area of your body. The sound waves bounce off internal organs and are passed back through the microphone to a computer. The computer turns these sound waves into images that are displayed on a monitor.
Ultrasound Imaging is widely used these days as it is painless and safe for adults, children and foetuses. There are no side effects such as the ones associated with other imaging modalities, for example, ionizing radiation produced by CT and plain x-rays.
Ultrasound is being used to image mostly solid soft organs such as liver, kidneys, uterus and ovaries, muscles and blood vessels and babies in the womb. It has, however, limited value in organs such as lungs, bone, stomach and bowel/colon.
The scan images are black and white but colour Doppler is being used to evaluate organ blood flow and blood vessels and this is what the red and blue colours on the screen are.
What is ultrasound used for?
Ultrasound is used for a wide variety of scans, including:
- Baby scanning (pregnancy ultrasound)
- Musculoskeletal ultrasound
- Breast ultrasound
- Testicular screening
- Gynaecological ultrasound
- Detecting heart abnormalities (such as an echocardiogram)
There is a comprehensive range of general ultrasound scans available including specialist ultrasound procedures such as:
- Pelvic (transabdominal and transvaginal)
- Urology, including prostate
- Small parts
Preparing for ultrasound scanning
Some ultrasound tests require no preparation so please check the instructions associated with your scan. For some scans, you may be asked to fast and for some other to drink water. For example, If you are having your uterus or ovaries scanned you may be asked to attend the appointment with a full bladder. This acts as an ultrasound window and allows better visualisation of the pelvic organs.
Find out more why you need to prepare for an ultrasound scan?
What are the benefits of ultrasound?:
- Painless and non-invasive
- Can visualize movement and function and therefore can examine blood vessels and blood flow to different organs
- Does not use x-rays or any other type of ionizing radiation to produce an image
- Gives a clear image of soft tissues that may not show up well on x-rays
- Causes no health problems and may be repeated as often as necessary
What happens during ultrasound scanning?
During the ultrasound scan, the sonographer will spread the gel on the area to be scanned and will rests a small probe over the skin. The gel helps to transmit the sound waves and also helps the probe to slide. The probe produces sound waves i.e. pulsations that travel through your skin and inside your body. Part of the sound waves are being reflected back to the transducer and the computer analyses the returning echoes and produces the image on the screen. Medical ultrasonography uses the same principle as the sonar that the navy uses to detect submarines.
The ultrasound image will appear on the scanner's monitor.
If you have any questions or concerns about your particular scan or the preparation, be sure to call us using the number on your appointment letter.
Are ultrasound scans dangerous?
Ultrasound scanning is not dangerous and has no known side effects when it is being used by qualified practitioners.
When will I find out the results?
For most types of scans, our sonographers will be able to explain the images and results to you during or just after the scan. In other cases, a detailed analysis may be needed.
Our specialists will review the images and send a report on the findings to you.