What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs and blood flowing through blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions and to assess organ damage following illness, including:

  • Abdominal
  • Biopsy
  • Breast
  • Gynecological
  • Neck lymph node evaluation
  • Neonatal
  • Obstetrical
  • Paracentesis
  • Pelvic
  • Renal Doppler studies
  • Testicular
  • Thoracentesis
  • Thyroid
  • Thyroid biopsy
  • Transabdominal
  • Transvaginal
  • Ultrasound-guided biopsies
  • Urology
  • Vascular

Ultrasounds are also used to:

  • Guide procedures such as needle biopsies, in which needles are used to extract sample cells from an abnormal area for laboratory testing
  • Image the breasts and guide biopsy of breast cancer
  • Diagnose a variety of heart conditions and assess damage after a heart attack or diagnose valvular heart disease

Doppler ultrasounds, which use sound waves to see how blood flows through a blood vessel, can be used to evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow (such as clots)
  • Narrowing of vessels (which may be caused by plaque)
  • Tumors and congenital malformation

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

Preparing for an Ultrasound

You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Some scans will require that you not eat or drink anything for as many as 12 hours before your exam. Other scans may require that you drink up to six glasses of water two hours before your exam without urinating to ensure a full bladder. Please ask your doctor if you have any prep instructions before coming in for your ultrasound.

What to Expect

  • After being positioned on an examination table, the ultrasound technician will apply a warm gel onto your skin over the area to be scanned.
  • He or she will press the transducer—a small hand-held device—firmly against your body, moving it until the desired images are captured. You may feel slight discomfort or pressure at times as the transducer is pressed against your body.
  • As the exam takes place, you will be able to see the images on a screen that looks somewhat like a television or computer screen.
  • The exam will most likely take less than 30 minutes.

Finding Out the Results

The radiologist analyzes the images and sends a report of the diagnosis to your referring doctor, who will then discuss the ultrasound examination results with you.

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment at one of the Northside Hospital Gwinnett or Duluth locations, call 678-312-3444.

To schedule an appointment at a Northside Hospital Atlanta, Forsyth or Cherokee location, call 404-851-6577.