Common Questions About Ultrasound

MANA Imaging and MRI has been providing medical imaging services in Northwest Arkansas for more than 20 years. They offer a full range of imaging services including ultrasound, or sonography. While most people know about ultrasound imaging, they do not always understand what it is or how it works. Here’s some basic information to help you understand ultrasound imaging.

How does ultrasound work?

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a visual of internal organs and structures of the body. A transducer, or wand or probe, produces these sound waves that travel through tissues and fluids.

The sounds waves bounce back off denser tissues and structures; this is known as an echo. The denser the object is the greater the echo. The returning sounds waves produce the images in real-time, which means that ultrasound imaging can show the movement of the organs and blood flow.

Sonographers perform the scan while a specialist — such as a radiologist or cardiologist — examines and interprets the images.

What is ultrasound used for?

Ultrasound can determine the sex of a fetus as early as 18-20 weeks, but ultrasound imaging has many other uses! Click To Tweet

Estimating a baby’s due date and determining whether the baby will be a boy or a girl are among the best known uses for ultrasound. Ultrasound imaging is used for more than examining fetal development, however.

Sonography is an important diagnostic tool. Medical professionals use ultrasound to examine muscles, bone surfaces, joints, and organs such as the liver or heart. Ultrasound can detect tumors, assist with procedures such as biopsies, and diagnose problems with the circulatory system.

Are there any risks involved with ultrasound?

Unlike other types of medical imaging, such as X-ray imaging, there’s no exposure to ionizing radiation with ultrasound.

Ultrasound can heat tissues slightly, and may result in cavitation in fluids or tissues; the long-term consequences of these side effects are unknown. However, no risks have been established with the prudent use of ultrasound, and ultrasound imaging has a very good safety record.

The American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine discourages non-medical use of ultrasound imaging in pregnancy. Keepsake images or videos should only be obtained during medically-indicated exams.

How do you prepare for an ultrasound?

Scans typically take between 20 and 60 minutes. When preparing for your exam, you should wear loose, comfortable clothing.  You may be asked to change into a gown for your exam.  Depending on your exam, you may have to avoid food or drink for a predetermined amount of time. For these exams, we try to schedule early morning appointments.  There are other exams that will require you to have a full bladder beforehand.  Your healthcare provider will tell you how you need to prepare for an ultrasound scan.