Ultrasound is a safe and widely used imaging technique. Ultrasound produces detailed pictures of the body in real time using high frequency sound waves which are produced by a special ultrasound probe, called a transducer. The frequency of these sound waves is higher than that detected by the human ear and when they are reflected by a part of the body they are detected by the probe and used to create images that can be displayed on a monitor. Because they are captured in real time they appear as moving images not as static or still ones thus enhancing the diagnostic capability of the test. Ultrasound has no known harmful effects and can be used to image a variety of conditions including pregnancy, gallstones and varicose veins. Ultrasound can also be used to measure blood flow through vessels, when it is called a colour flow Doppler or Duplex scan.
Indications for Ultrasound
Ultrasound can be used to image many areas of the body including the pelvis and abdomen, the musculoskeletal system, the breast, the male reproductive system, the kidney, the thyroid, and salivary glands, the gall bladder, the pancreas and the developing fetus.
Who will perform the scan?
Your examination or scan will be performed by either a Radiologist (a highly trained specialist doctor ) or a sonographer (a specially trained technologist). Because the examiner is interpreting moving images on a screen a high degree of concentration is required to obtain accurate information. Therefore, in most circumstances except obstetric scans, family and friends of the patient are not generally permitted to watch the procedure. If you have accompanying children you will have to bring along someone to watch them during your examination.
Booking and Preparation
You will need to make an appointment for this examination. Depending on the area of the body to be examined you may be asked to fast from food and fluids for a period of time before your scan. Alternatively, some examinations require you to drink a significant amount of water prior to arriving so that your bladder is full. You will be advised of the appropriate preparation when you make your appointment.
For most ultrasound examinations you will be required to change into a gown and lie on an examination couch. You will remain covered during your examination except for the area being imaged. In order to obtain optimal images a layer of gel will be applied to the area being imaged so that good contact is made between you and the ultrasound probe. The probe will be placed directly onto the gel and your skin for the duration of the examination. Ultrasound examinations are not painful and generally are not invasive but sometimes they can be uncomfortable if you have to maintain a full bladder or move a body part that might be causing you some discomfort e.g. a shoulder.
Colour Doppler ultrasound uses a special technology that looks at blood flow through the arteries and veins, for example – the carotid arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain, or the veins of the legs. If you are having this examination it is common to hear strange noises as the signals coming from the flowing blood are converted into sound. Sometimes the sonographer will have to gently squeeze the calf a few times when examining the veins in the legs. This should not be painful.
On occasion, a biopsy, or sample of tissue, may be required by your doctor to diagnose a medical problem. If you are required to have a liver or breast biopsy, the test may need to be performed at a specific branch of Perth Radiological Clinic. Whilst many biopsies have no specific requirements, biopsies of the kidney and liver require special preparation (you will be advised by our booking staff when you make your appointment). The specimen will then be sent to a pathology laboratory for processing and the results will be forwarded to your doctor.
Ultrasound Guided Injection
Sometimes your referring doctor may request you to have a pain relieving injection into a specific area. A radiologist will perform this procedure and the ultrasound probe is used to guide the injection to the correct place. No specific preparation is required for this procedure.
How long will the procedure take?
Most ultrasound examinations will be completed within 30 minutes, however, some studies will take longer especially the colour Doppler studies. It is not unusual for the radiologist to come in and speak with you and view the images on the screen. The radiologist will then interpret all images produced during the examination and the results will be forwarded to your doctor.
Please note: that due to the high demand for ultrasound examinations, a cancellation fee will be charged if you do not give at least 24 hours notice for a cancelled appointment.
Please remember to bring any previous ultrasound or x-ray films to your appointment.