What is an Ultrasound?
An ultrasound is a test used to see images of a patient’s organs, tissues, or unborn baby in the case of pregnancy. The process involves a tool called an ultrasound probe, which emits high-frequency sound waves. These sound waves bounce off of tissues and are reflected back towards the probe. The reflected sound waves are then recorded and used to generate an image of the tissues. This procedure allows providers to visualize tissues and identify possible problems such as tumors. Ultrasounds are also used frequently to monitor the development of unborn babies.
Are Ultrasounds Safe?
When done properly, ultrasounds are safe. The procedure is non-invasive, so it does not require anything risky like an incision. Additionally, unlike other tests like X-rays, ultrasounds function without radiation, so patients do not need to worry about the potentially harmful side effects of radiation.
What Happens During an Ultrasound?
The exact process will vary depending on the body part being examined. In general, the procedure involves having a gel applied to the area. The provider then passes the ultrasound probe over that area. Some ultrasounds, like abdominal ultrasounds (which are commonly used during pregnancy), are performed on the outside of the body. Other ultrasounds involve inserting the probe into the body. For example, if digestive organs are being examined, the probe will be inserted into the patient’s throat. It is normal for an ultrasound to take 30 minutes, but it may take up to an hour. Any patient with concerns or questions should ask their provider for specific details about the procedure before it is performed.
What Happens After an Ultrasound?
After an ultrasound is performed, the images will be examined by a radiologist. The radiologist develops a report to give to the provider who can then discuss the results with the patient. It generally does not take very long to receive one’s results after an ultrasound. If a qualified provider is present while the procedure is being performed, they may be able to discuss the results with the patient immediately. Otherwise, it may take several days to hear back. In some cases, the results of ultrasound may identify issues such as heart problems, tumors, or blood clots. If a diagnosis is made, the provider should then explain the patient’s options for treatment.