Services & Specialities

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Ultrasound

What is 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, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

  • Ultrasound examinations do not use x-rays. They are considered a safe procedure with no side effects.
  • The ultrasound device has various transducer probes. These transducers emit high frequency or 'ultra' sound waves which bounce back from each tissue interface within the body. The probes read the waves returning from the body and construct the image accordingly..
  • The image gives the shape, size and density of the structures being viewed. It is a completely different image to that gained through using x-rays, and as it is considered safe, it will often be used in conjunction with other imaging.
  • A relative or friend may accompany you into the ultrasound room if you wish.
  • Conventional ultrasound displays the images in thin, flat sections of the body. A Doppler ultrasound study may be part of an ultrasound examination, which 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.

What does an Ultrasound diagnose?

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

  • heart and blood vessels, including the abdominal aorta and its major branches
  • liver
  • gallbladder
  • spleen
  • pancreas
  • kidneys
  • bladder
  • uterus, ovaries, and unborn child(foetus) in pregnant patients
  • eyes
  • thyroid and parathyroid glands
  • scrotum (testicles)

Other uses of Ultrasound include

  • 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 to guide biopsy of breast cancer (see the Ultrasound-Guided Breast Biopsy page).
  • diagnose a variety of heart conditions and to assess damage after a heart attack or other illness.

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)
  • tumours and congenital malformation

What will I experience during and after the Ultrasound procedure?

  • Most ultrasound examinations are painless, fast and easy and are completed within 15-30 minutes.
  • After you are positioned on the examination table, the radiologist will spread some gel on your skin and then press the transducer firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. There may be varying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the transducer is pressed against the area being examined.
  • If scanning is performed over an area of tenderness, you may feel pressure or minor pain from the procedure.
  • Ultrasound exams in which the transducer is attached to probe and inserted into an opening of the body may produce minimal discomfort.
  • If a Doppler ultrasound study is performed, you may actually hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as the blood flow is monitored and measured.
  • Once the imaging is complete, the gel will be wiped off your skin.
  • After an ultrasound exam, you should be able to resume your normal activities.

Ultrasound Results

A radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyse the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you. In some cases the radiologist may discuss preliminary results with you at the conclusion of your examination.

Further information and preferred preparation for ultrasound exams:

Pelvic

  • These scans can be done trans-abdominally with a full bladder or trans-vaginally with a special probe.
  • Please arrive with a full bladder as the doctor will try the trans-abdominal approach first.
  • The trans-vaginal approach, however, can give so much more detail that it is the preferred method for accurate imaging and therefore the diagnosis of pelvic structure abnormalities.
  • The trans-vaginal approach is usually no worse than a pap-smear, but occasionally might cause a small amount of pain.
  • Please note that you will always have a chaperone present during the examination for your protection.

Abdominal

  • These scans are done trans-abdominally.
  • You will need to fast for six hours prior so that your liver and gall bladder can be imaged properly.
  • You can continue to drink water during this fast, but nothing with any fat can be consumed (so no milk).
  • Please continue to take all your prescribed medications.
  • Allow 30 minutes for your scan.

Renal

  • These scans are done trans-abdominally.
  • You will need to arrive with a full bladder so that the radiologist can report on the size and shape accurately.
  • Please continue to take all your prescribed medications.
  • Allow 30 minutes for your scan.

Deep venous or arterial scans

  • Deep venous examinations are to check for DVT and all radiologists perform this examination.
  • Arterial scans are more specialised, however, and must be booked as arterial scans to avoid delays in your treatment.
  • Both types of scan may involve some pressure on the probe being used by the radiologist to accurately image the vessels.

All other regions

  • Ultrasound can be done on most any part of the body.
  • Most scans involve a small amount of warmed gel on the skin and the probe running over the area of interest multiple times.
  • A chaperone will always be present for delicate procedures.
  • A relative is always welcome in the room at your discretion.

Interventional Procedures

  • Ultrasound can be used for biopsy, drainage and other interventional procedures.
  • These procedures are all done under sterile conditions set up specifically within the ultrasound room.

Please ask the performing radiologist for details prior to the procedure taking place.

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