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Diagnostic Ultrasound

Ultrasound FAQ

Ultrasound energy that produces the sound waves is not harmful when properly applied for the purpose of medical diagnostic imaging. Sonographers ensure that they follow the ALARA principle (as low as reasonably acceptable) and limit exposure to what is required. Ultrasound does not use ionizing radiation such as is required for an x-ray.
There are two barriers in producing a good quality exam –gas and bone. Contrary to what many think, fat is not the main barrier. Sound waves need a medium to travel. Air is not a medium and therefore blocks the path of the ultrasound beam. Liquid is a good conductor and that is why gel is applied to the body to allow for greater contact between the probe and skin. Bone is a sense solid medium, too dense for sound to penetrate. As a result, bone disorders cannot be diagnoses by ultrasound. In order to produce good quality images, the patient is required to fast for at least 8 hours prior to the exam. This reduces the amount of gas content in the abdomen. This includes chewing gum. Drinking water with medication does not prevent the sonographer from attaining good pictures.
The type of ultrasound exam will determine whether you need to drink water for the test. If the exam is an abdominal ultrasound, the patient does not need to drink water. A pelvic ultrasound requires at least 40 Oz of water 1 hour prior to the appointment time. The full bladder serves as a window to see your pelvic organs (i.e. uterus, ovaries, or prostate). Without a full bladder, it is difficult to see them.
An abdominal ultrasound requires that you fast for at least 8 hours prior to your scheduled appointment. This reduces the amount of gas in your abdomen (which obstructs the abdominal organs). Eating triggers the digestive system to take effect. This causes the gallbladder to contract, preventing the sonographer to visualize abnormalities such as gallstones.
If you are seeing your doctor immediately after your ultrasound appointment, a verbal report will be called or faxed to your Doctor. If you are not seeing your doctor after the ultrasound test, a final report will be faxed to your doctor with 24-48 hours.
Sonographers are not permitted to discuss the results with the patient. The results of the examination will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will discuss the results with you.