Ultrasound Scans

Table of Contents

Ultrasound is a scan used to examine internal body structures. Although an ultrasound scan is most commonly used to check pregnancy-related conditions such as finding out the sex of the baby and monitoring its health, it is also often used to check the condition of other organs in your body such as your blood vessels, joints, tendons, and muscles.

The technology used in ultrasound is similar to what is used in radar by the military to detect the presence and position of planes, ships, etc. This technology allows doctors to make a diagnosis without having to create an incision in your body.

How Ultrasound Scan Works 

Ultrasound uses a special device called a transducer. This device functions to transmit the high-frequency sound waves to certain areas in your body. 

The sound waves are reflected back to the transducer — which later generates electrical signals that are sent to the ultrasound scanner.

Types of Ultrasound Scans

There are 3 types of ultrasounds, namely;

  • External ultrasound is a type of ultrasound that uses a device with a sensor at the end. A device (transducer) can pick up sound waves from the skin’s surface. In general, external ultrasound is used to check the kidneys, liver, breasts, joints, and the condition of the fetus during pregnancy.
  • Internal ultrasound is performed by inserting only two to three inches of the transducer into the vagina. This type of ultrasound is used to examine organs in the pelvic area, such as the uterus and ovaries.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound is a type of ultrasound that uses a special instrument called an endoscope. Unlike the transducer, an endoscope is a long, thin, flexible tube equipped with a camera, light, and sensor on one end. Endoscopic ultrasound is performed to examine your esophagus and abdominal areas by inserting the endoscope through the mouth.

There are also several types of ultrasound techniques based on the technology used: 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional, and 4-dimensional ultrasound. The difference lies on the results displayed on the monitor. 

  • 2-dimensional ultrasound produces black and white pictures and tends to be flatter. Although the pictures are not very clear and resemble a sketch, 2-dimensional ultrasound is still able to show the condition of internal organs.  
  • 3-dimensional ultrasound can produce clearer pictures than 2-dimensional ultrasound. With this technique, the baby’s skin, nose, and mouth can be seen more clearly. This type of ultrasound can also show the baby’s movements. 
  • 4-dimensional ultrasound has a better ability to show the clearest pictures compared to 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional. Given the quality,  4D ultrasound is more expensive than 2D and 3D ultrasound scans.

Body Parts That Can Be Examined With Ultrasound Scan

  1. Both male and female reproductive organs.
  2. Blood vessels, including fine blood vessels.
  3. Breasts, especially to detect lumps in breast tissue.
  4. Joints, skeleton, and the systems that support them, such as ligaments and muscles.
  5. Heart defects such as damaged heart valves, abnormal heartbeats, and swelling of the heart walls.
  6. Organs in the stomach such as the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder.
  7. Organs in the neck, such as the thyroid gland, salivary glands, neck blood vessels, and other abnormalities, including lumps, infections, cysts and tumors.
  8. Brain and spine, both in infants and adults. Disorders that may be detected such as injury or bleeding, congenital abnormalities, inflammation of the brain.Since ultrasound waves do not pass through bone easily, adults can only perform this ultrasound after the skull has been opened. 
  9. Monitor the health of the uterus & womb and to monitor fetal growth and development for pregnant women. Furthermore, it can also detect disorders that occur in the uterus, ovaries, placenta, and cervix.

Cost Estimation for Ultrasound Scan

The cost for an ultrasound scan procedure may vary — depending on several factors, such as the hospital of your choice and the type of ultrasound used. 

For more details regarding the cost estimation for ultrasound scans, contact Smarter Health.

Pre-Ultrasound Scan

The preparations that you have to do before the ultrasound scan may vary — depending on the area being examined. may 

If you are getting an ultrasound scan in the pelvic area, you may be asked to drink at least 6 glasses of water 2 hours before the procedure.  You may also be asked not to urinate before the procedure. A full bladder is necessary for a pelvic ultrasound scan. 

If you are getting an ultrasound scan in the bile, liver, pancreas, and spleen, you may be asked to fast for 8 to 12 hours before the procedure. This is done to prevent any leftover food in your stomach and intestines that may block sound waves.

In breast ultrasound scans, you may be asked to avoid using cosmetics on your breasts such as powders or lotions. This is done to increase the accuracy of the final examination results.

Other ultrasound scans may require different preparations. You are advised to follow your doctor’s instructions to have an accurate ultrasound scan result.

During Ultrasound Scan

You should dress in comfortable clothing. It might be necessary for you to change into a hospital gown. Then, you will be asked to lie down on a table. Your doctor will apply an ultrasound gel on the surface to reduce friction and improve the transmission of the ultrasonic waves. The gel gives off a cool sensation when applied to your skin. 

  • In external ultrasound, your doctor will move the transducer over the part of the body that needs to be examined. In pregnancy ultrasound scans, you will be able to see the condition of the fetus on the monitor and hear its heartbeats. In scrotal ultrasound scans, you will lie on your back with your legs spread. Your doctor may place a towel underneath your scrotum to keep it elevated
  • In internal ultrasound, you will lie down with your pelvis slightly tilted. Then, your doctor will insert a lubricated transducer and sterile protector on one end into your vagina. Similar to an external ultrasound scan, you can see the condition of your internal organs directly through the monitor.
  • In endoscopic ultrasound, you will be given a local anesthetic and sedative to reduce pain and anxiety. You may be instructed to lie on your left side. After that, your doctor will pass the endoscope through your mouth, down your esophagus, and into your stomach and small intestine to be examined.

Post-Ultrasound Scan 

After the exam, the lubricated body part will be cleaned. You will be allowed to pee after the procedure is complete. 

You may also return to your normal activities. However,  If you received sedatives, you will not be allowed to drive after the procedure. You will receive your results shortly after the exam. Consult your doctor if you need further analysis. 

Benefits of Ultrasound Scan

Compared to other medical imaging techniques, ultrasound or sonography offers several benefits, such as: 

  • More affordability. 
  • Painless procedure — ultrasound scan does not require surgery or injection
  • Able to take pictures of soft tissue and internal organs that are not captured by X-rays.
  • The technology used by ultrasound does not emit radiation (safer than X rays and CT scans)

Side Effects of Ultrasound Scan

An ultrasound scan may have several side effects, such as a hot sensation in the area being examined and an allergic reaction to the lubricant used.

If you perform an internal ultrasound, you may feel uncomfortable when the device is inserted through your vagina. In endoscopic ultrasound, it is possible for you to experience temporary sore throat and flatulence. In rare cases, you may also experience bleeding. 

In general, ultrasound scans do not cause long-term complications as long as it is performed properly. 

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