General Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging, (also known as sonography) uses high-frequency sound waves to view inside the body. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can also show movement of the body’s internal organs as well as blood flowing through the blood vessels. Unlike X-ray or CT scan imaging, there is no ionizing radiation exposure associated with ultrasound imaging.

The test is done in the ultrasound department at our imaging center. You will be lying down for the procedure. A clear, water-based conducting gel is applied to the skin over the area being examined to help with the transmission of the sound waves by eliminating interference caused by the presence of air between the skin and transducer surfaces. A handheld probe called a transducer is moved over the area being examined. You may be asked to change position so that other areas can be examined.

For specific information about ultrasound examinations, please refer to the following lists below:


Examines many of the body’s internal organs including the heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and bladder.

Abdominal Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound is a useful way of examining internal organs, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bladder. Because US images are captured in real time, they can show movement of internal tissues and organs and enable physicians to see blood flow. This can help to diagnose a variety of conditions and to assess damage caused by illness.

Ultrasound imaging is used extensively for evaluating the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, and blood vessels of the abdomen. Because it provides real-time images, it can also be used to:

  • Guide procedures such as needle biopsies, in which needles are used to sample cells from organs for laboratory testing.
  • Help a physician determine the source of many abdominal pains, such as stones in the gall bladder or kidney, or an inflamed appendix.
  • Help identify the cause for enlargement of an abdominal organ.

Doppler ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound study that examines major blood vessels. These images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow, such as clots.
  • Build-up of plaque inside the vessel.
  • Congenital malformation.

With knowledge about the speed and volume of blood flow gained from an ultrasound image, the physician can often determine whether a patient is a good candidate for a procedure like angioplasty.

The patient is positioned on an examination table, and a clear gel is applied to the abdomen to help the transducer make secure contact with the skin. The sound waves produced by the transducer cannot penetrate air, so the gel helps to eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin. The sonographer or radiologist then presses the transducer firmly against the skin and sweeps it back and forth to image the area of interest.

When the examination is complete, the patient may be asked to dress and wait while the ultrasound images are reviewed, either on film or on a monitor. Often, though, the sonographer or radiologist is able to review the ultrasound images in real time as there may be varying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the radiologist or sonographer guides the transducer over your abdomen, especially if you are required to have a full bladder. The examination usually takes less than 30 minutes.

Pelvic Ultrasound

Pelvic ultrasound is most often used to examine the uterus and ovaries and, during pregnancy, to monitor the health and development of the embryo or fetus. In men, a pelvic ultrasound usually focuses on the bladder and the prostate gland.

For women, ultrasound examinations can help determine the causes of pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, or other menstrual problems. Ultrasound images can also help to identify palpable masses such as ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids, as well as ovarian or uterine cancers. Sonohysterography (saline infusion sonography) is a procedure in which sterile saline is injected into the uterus while a transvaginal sonogram is performed. The purpose is to distend the uterine cavity (endometrial cavity) to look for polyps, fibroids, or cancer, especially in patients with abnormal uterine bleeding. Other indications Include evaluation of the uterine cavity looking for uterine anomalies (abnormal uterine  shapes since birth) or scars. The saline outlines the lesion and allows for easy visualization and measurement. Some physicians also use sonohysterography for patients with infertility. Saline and air are injected into the uterus and the physician looks for air bubbles passing through the fallopian tubes, which would indicate patency of the fallopian tubes.

In men, pelvic ultrasound is a valuable tool for evaluating the prostate gland, as well as for evaluating the seminal vesicles.

A pelvic ultrasound exam can help to identify stones, tumors and other disorders in the urinary bladder in both men and women. Because ultrasound provides real time images, it can also be used to guide procedures, such as needle biopsies, in which a needle is used to sample cells from an abnormal area for laboratory testing. Doppler sonography is another method of ultrasound that can be used to evaluate blood flow in pelvic vessels.

The same principles of high­ frequency sound apply in each technique.

There are three methods of performing pelvic ultrasound:

  • abdominal (transabdominal)
    An abdominal ultrasound is a useful way of examining internal organs, including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and Because US images are captured in real time, they can show movement of internal tissues and organs and enable physicians to see blood flow. This can help to diagnose a variety of conditions and to assess damage caused by illness.
  • vaginal (transvaginal, endovaginal) in women
    Instead of external placement, the ultrasound machine’s transducer probe is inserted inside the patient’s vagina to generate more complete This type of ultrasound is most often used during the early stages of pregnancy.
  • rectal (transrectal) in
    Transrectal Ultrasonography (TRUS) is a way of creating an image of the prostate gland. In TRUS the probe (ultrasound transducer) is placed into the rectum by the provider. TRUS may be recommended by doctors when they suspect prostate cancer based on an abnormal Digital Rectal Examination or an elevated Prostate Specific Antigen blood test.

Thyroid ultrasound

An ultrasound of the thyroid produces a picture of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in front of the neck just below the Adam’s apple and is shaped like a butterfly, with two lobes on either side of the neck connected by a narrow band of tissue. It is one of nine endocrine glands located throughout the body that make and send hormones into the bloodstream.

Sometimes a biopsy is necessary to determine the significance of a lesion identified in the thyroid gland. This is usually done as a needle biopsy. Ultrasound is often used to guide thyroid biopsies to make sure the correct area in the thyroid gland is biopsied. Using ultrasound, your radiologist can verify that the needles used for the biopsy are in the correct area to sample the lesion of interest. Thyroid biopsies are a relatively minor outpatient procedure done under local anesthesia, which usually involve little or no patient discomfort.

Scrotal Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging of the scrotum provides pictures of the testicles and the surrounding tissues of a man or a boy. An ultrasound of the scrotum may be done for a variety of reasons including to evaluate a lump or mass in the scrotum, scrotal pain or undescended testes.

Breast Ultrasound

Used to examine a patient’s breasts, often in conjunction with a mammogram.

Renal Ultrasound

Examines the kidneys and urinary tract.