What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound scanning, also called "ultrasound imaging" or "sonography," is a method of obtaining images from inside the human body through the use of high-frequency sound waves. The sound waves are recorded and displayed as a live image. Because ultrasound images are captured in real time, they can show movement of internal tissues and organs, and enable physicians to see blood flow.

When is an Ultrasound Used?

Ultrasounds are used for a variety of reasons, one of the most common being during pregnancy to obtain pictures of a baby in the womb. Other common exams include:

  • Abdomen
  • Abdominal Doppler
  • Breast
  • Pelvis
  • Renal transplant
  • Testicular
  • Thyroid
  • Transvaginal
  • Evaluation of the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen and blood vessels of the abdomen
  • Rule out masses and aneurysms

Specialized Exams

There are a number of specialized exams ultrasounds are used for:

  • Breast-Thyroid biopsies
  • Extensive diagnostic OB
  • Hysterosonograms
  • Soft tissue biopsies

Because ultrasounds provide real-time images, they can also be used to:

  • Guide procedures such as needle biopsies, in which a needle is used to sample cells from an organ for laboratory testing.
  • Help a physician determine the source of abdominal pain, such as stones in the gallbladder or appendix, or an inflamed appendix.
  • Help identify the cause of enlargement of the abdominal organ.

Doppler Ultrasound is a special type of ultrasound study that is used in the examination of major blood vessels. These images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow, such as clots.
  • Build-up of plaque inside the vessel.
  • Congenital malformations.

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