What is an ultrasound?

istock 917730146 scaled 450 An ultrasound is a safe and painless procedure that produces pictures of internal organs using sound waves. Ultrasound imaging, also called sonography, involves the use of a small transducer (probe) and ultrasound gel placed directly on the skin. High-frequency sound waves are transmitted from the probe through the gel then into the body. The transducer collects the sound and a computer then uses those sound waves to create an image.

What are the benefits of having an ultrasound?

Ionizing radiation, that is typically used in x-rays, is not used during ultrasound examinations, therefore, there is no radiation exposure to the patient. Additionally, the lack of radiation means that patients will not experience any side effects. An ultrasound also captures images in real-time, allowing doctors to see the structure and movement of the body’s internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

What areas can an ultrasound be performed on?

  • Abdomen and Pelvis
  • Biopsies
  • Brain in infant
  • Breast
  • Hips in infants
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Obstetrical and Gynecological
  • Scrotal
  • Thyroid
  • Vascular – including venous & arterial

How do I prepare for my ultrasound?

The preparation for an ultrasound varies based on the location of the imaging. All patients will likely have to remove jewelry or clothing and be provided a gown before the procedure begins. More specific preparations depend on the type of ultrasound you are having such as:

  • Carotid, Thyroid, Breast, Scrotal, Echocardiography: No preparation is required.
  • Gallbladder, Liver, Abdominal, Pancreas: No food for 6 hours prior to the exam.
  • Pelvis and Bladder Ultrasound: Drink 32 ounces of clear liquids 1 hour prior to the exam. Do not urinate.

The Ultrasound Procedure

During an ultrasound exam, patients will normally lay on a comfortable table face-up and a warm gel will be applied to the transducer. Technicians use the gel so there is no gap between the transducer and your skin. The ultrasound technician will apply a small amount of pressure and move the ultrasound transducer across the patient’s body. The transducer then relays the sound waves from the body to the computer, producing real-time results.

When will I get my ultrasound results?

The ultrasound exam typically takes 30 – 60 minutes to complete. Patients should be able to return to their normal daily activities immediately. Summit Healthcare will send the results of your ultrasound to your doctor within 24 hours. They will then reach out to discuss your results and any other information you may need.

How is Ultrasound Different than X-rays and Other Imaging?

Being told that you need any kind of imaging can create a little stress. Rest assured, our experienced team is here to answer your questions and walk you through a painless process. Imaging enables your doctor to observe various internal structures without having to perform surgery. There are several different imaging tests that may be chosen. Your doctor makes their recommendation based on the type of tissue they want to observe. X-ray, CT, and ultrasound are some of the most commonly performed imaging tests. 

X-rays are the most common form of imaging performed. This non-invasive, completely painless screening gives a two-dimensional image of a specific area of focus. Most people recognize x-rays as the test that observes bones and joints. This is one of the primary uses. However, we may perform x-ray imaging to evaluate the lungs, heart, breast tissue, and other structures. Mammography is a type of x-ray. 

CT imaging, computed tomography, is a more sensitive type of x-ray. A CT constructs a cross-sectional image of the area of focus by circling x-ray beams around the body. This creates "slices" of images of soft tissue, bone, blood vessels, or other structures. Computed tomography works quickly with the least amount of radiation exposure possible. 

Ultrasound is a common type of imaging that does not require radiation to observe internal structures. Also, different than x-rays and CT scans, an ultrasound captures movement in an area. For example, ultrasound may see blood flow through a vein. Ultrasound can see the movement of a fetus. 

We perform a comprehensive selection of imaging services here at Summit Healthcare. Our experienced staff is happy to answer questions you may have before, during, or after your appointment. 

Why Would I Need a Breast Ultrasound?

Mammography is by and large the most common form of imaging used to evaluate breast tissue. And yet there are times when a radiologist and doctor will determine that an ultrasound, or even an MRI, may be a more efficient approach. This determination is made based on what the doctor needs to see. When we're discussing imaging, we point out that color means everything. Potential abnormalities will show up differently in an ultrasound than they would in a mammogram or MRI. Some abnormalities may not show up at all in one type of imaging, but will in others. 

Typically, mammography is performed as the baseline breast screening. A doctor may follow up with a request for an ultrasound if the mammogram shows an abnormality. A doctor may also turn to ultrasound imaging if their physical breast exam finds a lump that presents as a fluid-filled cyst. In this instance, the ultrasound may differentiate the mass between fluid or solid. That said, ultrasound is not considered an alternative for mammogram screenings. This is because ultrasound may miss the tiny calcifications that may serve as an early warning sign of breast cancer. 

Learn More

To learn more about diagnostic imaging and the ultrasound procedure call 928.532.1150. Summit Healthcare serves Show Low, Snowflake, Pinetop-Lakeside, and surrounding areas in Arizona.

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