Ultrasound, or sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to create images and capture movements of internal organs, tissues, structures and blood flow in real time. The sound waves create a visual image your doctor can use to assess health and disease, monitor the status of a fetus during pregnancy, gauge the effectiveness of medical treatment and provide image guidance for needle biopsies. Ultrasound imaging is noninvasive and radiation-free.

Types of Ultrasound

Standard Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive test that uses a transducer wand rolled over gel applied to the skin to collect high-frequency sound waves that are sent to a computer to create 3D quality images on a computer screen. Ultrasound captures internal images and movements in real-time, making it highly effective in monitoring pregnancy, blood flow and abnormalities in organs and structures. Ultrasound can be used to discover the source and cause of pain, swelling, infection and in diagnostic assessment of disease in the blood vessels, heart, liver, kidneys, gallbladder, spleen and reproductive organs, among many others. Ultrasound is also highly useful in guided procedures like needle biopsies and supplementary breast imaging.

Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce real-time images of breast tissues and provide supplementary information about lumps and abnormalities discovered during a screening or diagnostic mammogram, physical exam or other test. Ultrasound is radiation-free and completely noninvasive, making it both safe and comfortable, and it requires little to no prep.

Cardiac Ultrasound (Echocardiography)

Cardiac ultrasound, also known as echocardiography or an echogram, is a painless, noninvasive test that uses ultrasound imaging to capture real-time pictures of your heart as it moves and pumps blood, as well as its chambers and valves. Cardiac ultrasound can spot places in the heart muscle that are damaged or working ineffectively, locate injury from a previous diagnosed or undiagnosed heart attack, and isolate details about blood flow, possible clots, excess fluid around the heart and issues with the aorta, including aneurysm.

What to Expect

In most cases, ultrasound imaging requires you to lie on your back on an examination table. A clear gel is applied to the skin above the area to be examined to eliminate air pockets that can interfere with the transducer’s ability to capture sound waves.

Your technologist or radiologist will sweep the transducer wand firmly back and forth in order to visualize real-time images on a computer screen. The applied pressure may cause mild discomfort in some patients, especially when used across the abdomen if you have a full bladder.

The examination usually takes less than 30 minutes and requires little to no preparation.