An Ultrasound uses ultrasonic sound waves to visualise depths and shapes within the body. Although it is commonly known for generating images of foetuses in the womb, the Ultrasound machine is also useful for scanning soft tissue and some organs.

An Ultrasound uses a technique called the Piezoelectric Effect. The Ultrasound machine makes a quartz crystal vibrate very rapidly, sending ultrasound waves through a probe, also known as a transducer. The radiologist places this probe on your body and some of those waves will bounce off of parts of the body. The machine determines the depth of the body from which the wave bounced. With these signals, the Ultrasound machine can visualise shapes within the body and thereby map images.

There are different shapes of probes, for different purposes. Some are quite round and globe-like, whilst others are more linear. A ‘hockey stick probe,’ for example, is commonly used for detecting bony musculoskeletal conditions. Machines can be portable so they can move between departments in the hospital, if needed. However, generally the large units in Radiology for example are regarded as static due to their weight and size.

Ultrasound can scan throughout the body. It commonly checks for soft tissue conditions, for example lesions. It scans for tumours, cancers and fibroids. Ultrasound is a great tool for imaging renal stones in the kidneys. It is also useful for examining the bladder, gallstones as well as soft tissues in the pelvis. Obstetricians use Ultrasound to monitor the foetus’ growth in pregnant women.

With certain type of probing, we can examine in even more detail. For example, we can examine your baby’s brain by placing the probes on the fontanels in their head where the skull hasn’t yet closed.

Our consultant radiologists, vascular technicians, cardiac technicians and consultant surgeons do the Ultrasound.

The preparation depends on the part scanned. For example, for scanning the pelvis, you may have your bladder in three stages. First, you may be asked to have a full bladder. Then you might get a scan whilst your full bladder is being pressed on, which could cause discomfort. And finally you might get another scan with your bladder empty.

During the Ultrasound, you lie on a cushion, exposing the part of your body will get scanned. The radiologist layers a jelly on that part. That seals air from getting between your skin surface and the probe, thereby preventing distortion to the imaging.

To arrange get an Ultrasound, a you need a referral from your clinician. The department will then contact you to arrange an appointment.

The Ultrasound waves do not hurt. However, you might feel some discomfort when the radiologist / sonographer places the probe over the place in your body where you already have pain.

The Ultrasound scan can take between 10 to 30 minutes. The time it takes to get the results depends on which parts of the body you are getting examined. You will need to book an appointment with your clinician to discuss the results.

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