One of the diagnostic tools physicians commonly use today is an ultrasound. While most people tend to think of an ultrasound being used on pregnant women to determine the sex of a fetus and to check for any genetic anomalies and deformities, ultrasound technology is used in many other areas. If your doctor has scheduled you for an ultrasound, here's what you can expect.  

What Is An Ultrasound?

An ultrasound is unlike most other diagnostic imaging tools as it does not use radiation like an x-ray or a computed tomography (CT) or computerized axial tomography (CAT), commonly referred to as a "cat scan." This is why an ultrasound sonogram is the preferred choice for use on a developing fetus. Instead, an ultrasound, such as from Keebomed, uses high frequency sound waves to capture images.

What Should You Expect During An Ultrasound?

While your physician may use a portable ultrasound to briefly check something, most of the time, a patient is sent to have an ultrasound in the radiology department of a hospital. In rural or economically depressed areas, the patient may be seen in a mobile ultrasound unit that travels from town to town to provide services. A radiologist is more skilled at reading an ultrasound.

An ultrasound is not painful, nor is it anxiety-inducing as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may be with its claustrophobic tunnel a patient is inserted into.

Instead, a patient simply sits or lies on a hospital table. The room will be dark as this makes it easier for the radiologist to see any issues. An ultrasound gel will be applied to the area of the body that will be scanned. The sonographer uses a small handheld device called a transducer. It is pressed against the skin of the patient, and this gel allows the head of the transducer to glide effortlessly over the body, providing a tight bond. The sonographer than explores the region, taking measurements and screenshots as they go. While most ultrasounds are performed externally, sometimes an internal ultrasound is necessary. This procedure is typically performed on women who are having issues with their reproductive organs. A small probe is inserted into the vagina. This is called a transvaginal ultrasound. While it's not painful, it can be psychologically uncomfortable, but other than taking a bit longer, it's no different than going for your yearly pap smear exam.

Does An Ultrasound Require Any Patient Preparation?

Depending on the area of the body to be explored, you may be instructed not to eat after midnight. This is because it's harder to see if the digestive tract is full. You may also need to have a full bladder for some scans.