What Is Ultrasound?
Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within the body. The high-frequency sound waves are concentrated into a thin beam and directed into the body with a small hand-held device called a transducer. The sound waves reflect off internal structures. The returning echoes are received by the transducer and then processed by a computer to produce real-time images. Ultrasound is commonly used to evaluate the abdominal and pelvic organs, breasts, thyroid gland, testes, as well as blood flow in arteries and veins.
One of the most common uses for an ultrasound is during pregnancy. The procedure is similar and instead of looking at internal organs, we’ll be looking specifically at the uterus. There are generally two instances to get an ultrasound during pregnancy, in the first and third trimester, however pending complications and doctor’s instructions a vaginal ultrasound can be performed as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy.
During the first trimester scan we’re looking for the fetus’s heartbeat, checking for twins and measuring the fetus’s development to anticipate a delivery date. During the third trimester ultrasound more organs are starting to become visible and we’re looking at the baby’s sex and checking for healthy growth.
There are 2 common types of ultrasounds used during pregnancy:
Transvaginal Ultrasound – This is an internal exam. An ultrasound probe is placed inside the vagina, this allows it to create clearer images of the pelvic area. This scan can be performed early on in the pregnancy and is used to identify pregnancy complications. It can last between 30 – 60 minutes. This is a very low risk exam, but you may feel some minor discomfort during the procedure.
Abdominal Ultrasound – Conductive ultrasound gel will be spread on your lower abdomen to help decrease static in the sonogram image. An ultrasound probe will be used to see through the gel into your uterus and and live image will be shown on the screen. An abdominal ultrasound can take around 30 minutes.
PREGNANCY ULTRASOUND FAQS:
Q: How many ultrasounds during pregnancy are recommended?
A: Generally there are two ultrasounds during pregnancy, however a doctor may recommend more for a higher risk pregnancy. It is not suggested to get ultrasounds recreationally, since long term effects of frequent ultrasounds have not been studied.
Q: When is the first ultrasound / sonography during pregnancy?
A: A transvaginal ultrasound can be performed early on before the 6 week mark, it’s generally used for special circumstances recommended by your doctor. However, a regular abdominal ultrasound is performed around the 8 – 12 week mark.
What Should I Expect During an Ultrasound Procedure?
During the ultrasound, you will be positioned on an exam table and a clear gel will be applied to your skin. The gel is used to eliminate air bubbles between the transducer and your body, since sound waves travel very poorly through air. The transducer is pressed against the skin and moved back and forth to visualize the area of interest. It is usually painless, although you may experience some discomfort from the pressure applied by the transducer. The examination usually takes 15 to 45 minutes depending on the exam. You may return to your normal activities after the exam.
Preparing for an Ultrasound
For most ultrasound exams no preparation is needed. However, if the organs in your abdomen are being evaluated, you may be instructed not to eat or drink after midnight or 8 hours prior to your exam. You may also be asked to drink several glasses of water 1 hour before your test and to avoid urinating, so that your bladder is full for part of the exam. You should wear loose comfortable clothing. You may be asked to change into a hospital gown.
Please visit or call any of our New Mexico locations to schedule a consultation.
How Do I Get My Ultrasound Results?
After your ultrasound is over, the images will be evaluated by one of our board-certified Radiologists with expertise in ultrasound imaging. A final report will be sent to your doctor, who can then discuss the results with you in detail. Should you have any questions regarding your Ultrasound exam, we will be happy to discuss them with you.
Learn More About Different Types of Ultrasound We Offer
Pregnancy Ultrasound – a women’s imaging procedure to identify the sex of their child, and track fetus development.
Vascular Ultrasound – we use high frequency, non-invasive sound waves to evaluate organs, arteries and the abdomen.
Diagnostic Mammography – a diagnostic procedure for women showing significant breast cancer symptoms.
Breast Ultrasound – produces a sonogram to diagnose symptoms found on a physical exam. Often done alongside a mammogram.
Ultrasound Core Biopsy – a minimally invasive procedure to obtain internal tissue for diagnosis.
What Is the Difference Between an Ultrasound & a Sonogram?
These terms, sonogram and ultrasound, are often used interchangeably which can create some confusion. But there are slight technical differences between the two. An ultrasound is the procedure that creates a sonogram, which is the actual image of your fetus or body tissue.
A sonogram is usually a grainy, black and white image. It is generated by the high frequency sound waves produced from the ultrasound equipment.