Ultrasound exams are used to aid in the diagnosis of many conditions. They can be used as a diagnostic tool to do anything from looking at your gallbladder to seeing your baby develop in the womb. They differ from X-rays and CT scans because no radiation is needed to get the desired images. Instead, ultrasonic sound waves are used in seeing anything from gallstones to capturing and rendering a 3D image of your baby.
Things to Expect for an Ultrasound
You will most likely need to be able to lie on your back and may need to turn onto your left and right sides. Depending on why you are getting an ultrasound, you may be required to lie on your stomach. If you need assistance, just notify the ultrasound technician of any special needs. You may also be asked to hold your breath for a few moments at times. Overall, ultrasounds are easily tolerated by most patients. .
A gel is liberally applied to your body where the transducer (ultrasound wand) will be touched to your body. The gel is slippery and enables contact with your body and the transducer to acquire the images. Modern ultrasound machines come with warmers for the gel to keep it from feeling cold when it is applied. The worst part of the gel is getting it all off of you. Since it is water based, it easily comes off during a shower.
What You Feel During an Ultrasound Test
The transducer does not emit anything that can be felt on your skin or in your body. The only thing you will feel is slight pressure as the technician moves the transducer around to get the best images. You will feel the transducer slide through the slippery gel, and the technician may have to slightly press the transducer harder against your body to capture a good image in certain locations. It is no more uncomfortable than when your doctor palpates your abdomen during an exam. If the area of your abdomen is tender where the exam will be performed, you may experience some slight discomfort. You will not feel the sound waves nor will there be any heat or electrical sensations.
What You May See During an Ultrasound Test
You will likely be in a position at times where you can see the images of the internal parts of your body as the ultrasound technician acquires the images needed for your doctor. The ultrasound images will look like shadows of dark and light. Do not be concerned about seeing anything odd. It all looks odd to those who are not trained to interpret ultrasound images. Also, please keep in mind that your ultrasound technician cannot advise you of any details of things seen on the test. Only a radiologist, who is a medical doctor trained in radiology, is allowed to interpret the images that have been acquired.
All in all, an ultrasound test is one of the easiest and safest advanced diagnostic tests to undergo. It provides a wealth of diagnostic information for your doctor to use to recommend treatments and therapies, and you do not have to be exposed to radiation to have them done. This is why ultrasounds are even safely used throughout all stages of pregnancy and do not cause any harm to you or your developing baby.