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    My doctor ordered an Ultrasound Scan for me. What is an Ultrasound?

    Posted by Ravi Sohal on Thu, Nov 13, 2008

    Ultrasound scans (aka US) are medical imaging tests that physicians use to discover, treat, and monitor disease. Ultrasound machines send sound waves into your body and then "listen to the reflections". Computers then generate images from the reflected sound waves which are interpreted by physicians.

    Ultrasound can be used to image many parts of the body. Ultrasounds are very good at looking soft internal organs such as the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, heart, spleen, thyroid, arteries of the neck (carotids), uterus, bladder, ovaries and more. They are also be used by physicians during biopsy procedures and surgery. 

    The technology was introduced during World War 2 and has been adapted for medical uses. Today tens of millions of Ultrasound scans are done every year. Here are some commonly ordered Ultrasound scans and the sort of disease they are tailored to look for:

    • US Abdomen -- cirrhosis, tumors, gallbladder stones
    • US Pelvis -- fibroids, pregnancy, ovarian tumors, cysts
    • US Carotids -- atherosclerotic disease
    • US Kidneys -- kidney stones, tumors, infection and blockage (hyrodnephrosis)

    What to do before your Ultrasound scan:

    It helps to be prepared in advance of your appointment time. You will need to get a Radiology referral or prescription from your doctor. Check to make sure the facility you choose takes your insurance plan and your plan. Get preparation instructions from the facility’s staff in advance. Although you should follow your doctor’s advice, you can choose a local imaging center to perform your Ultrasound test. Our Radiology Search tool will help you find a Radiology center and learn more about your local imaging services (if you don’t find an imaging center in your area, please let us know).

    What to expect during and after your Ultrasound scan:

    • The Ultrasound scan appointment may take up to 1 hour. Plan accordingly.
    • You may be required to fast overnight or drinks lots of water before the test (please check with the imaging center in advance).
    • Ultrasound uses gel that is placed on the skin, so wear loose comfortable clothing.
    • You may need to take a film or CD copy of your Ultrasound scan to your doctor.
    • A physician Radiologist will interpret the Ultrasound. A report is sent to your doctor.
    Have you had any good (or bad) experiences with an Ultrasound? Is there an Ultrasound center you’d recommend? Leave your comments below.

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