Ultrasound imaging, also called sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body.

Ultrasound exams are safe and non-invasive, and do not use ionizing radiation (x-ray).

Since ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is usually a painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

Conventional ultrasound displays the images in thin, flat sections of the body. Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound technique that evaluates blood as it flows through a blood vessel, including the body's major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck.

Ultrasound is used to help physicians diagnose symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection

Ultrasound is a useful way of examining many of the body's internal organs, including but not limited to the:

  • Heart and blood vessels, including the abdominal aorta and its major branches
  • Abdomen

    • Liver
    • Gallbladder
    • Spleen
    • Pancreas
    • Kidneys
    • Bladder
  • Uterus, ovaries, and unborn child (fetus) in pregnant patients
  • Eyes
  • Thyroid and parathyroid glands
  • Scrotum (testicles)

Doppler ultrasound images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

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

What Happens During an Ultrasound?

Your sonographer will explain the procedure to you in more detail, however, exams typically consist of you lying on an examination table. Your registered sonographer will apply a small amount of water-soluble gel to the skin over the area to be examined.

A camera-like device called a transducer is applied to the skin and moved around as needed to visualize all areas requested by your physician. You may be asked to hold your breath briefly several times. The entire examination takes several minutes to complete.

How to Prepare for an Ultrasound

Generally, it is requested that the patient not eat or drink for at least 6-8 hours prior to the exam (3-6 hours for pediatric patients), although, it is dependent upon the organ/system being imaged.

Preparation for a pelvic ultrasound varies depending upon the age of the patient and the reason for the exam. Pediatric patients should arrive with a full bladder. Patients scheduled for transvaginal Ultrasound procedures should be prepared for a gynecologic-like exam and are not required to have a full bladder. More detailed instructions, when applicable, should be given to you at the time the exam is scheduled. The procedure will also be explained in more detail by the sonographer performing the exam.

Ultrasound Results

All exams are read by Wake Forest Baptist radiologists trained in ultrasound imaging and dedicated to your specific body part scanned. They will read your exam within 24 hours, and the results will be sent to the doctor that ordered your exam. Your doctor will then discuss the results with you and what they mean in relation to your health.

Pediatric Ultrasound

Experienced radiologists and technologists dedicated to imaging pediatric patients utilize state-of-the-art equipment and pediatric-specific protocols. Ultrasound examinations in pediatric patients include:

  • Cranial
  • Thyroid
  • Abdominal
  • Renal
  • Pelvic
  • Testicular
  • Spinal
  • Hip
  • Musculoskeletal