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An ultrasound scan is a picture of part of the inside of the body using sound waves of a frequency above the audible range of the human ear. A small hand-held sensor, which is pressed carefully against the skin surface, generates sound waves and detects any echoes reflected back off the surfaces and tissue boundaries of internal organs
The examination may be performed by a trained doctor or a sonographer. Sonographers are radiographers who have trained further to specialise in the technique of ultrasound scanning. They carry out a great number of these examinations and may also provide a descriptive report of their findings to your doctor.
Some preparation may be required if your pelvis, kidney or bladder are to be scanned, you may be required to ensure that your bladder is full before the examination can begin. For some examinations such as of the gall bladder and pancreas, you may be required to fast for a specified number of hours. If so, this will be explained in the accompanying appointment letter. You should tell the radiology department in advance if you have had a similar ultrasound scan recently.
You will be taken into a room where you will be asked to lie down on a couch; the room may be dimmed so that the pictures on the screen can be seen more clearly. A gel will be applied to your skin over the area to be scanned, for example, the abdomen. The gel allows the sensor to slide easily over the skin and helps to produce clearer pictures.
The doctor/sonographer will slowly move the sensor over your skin while viewing the images on the screen. Records of selected images will be made so that they can be viewed later. Upon completion, the gel will be wiped off and you will be free to get dressed.
The process of carrying out a scan usually takes about 15–30 minutes
No, there are no known risks and it is considered to be very safe.
The scan will be examined after your visit and a written report on the findings sent to your GP.