Ultrasound


Last Updated October 7th, 2019

What is an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture internal images from the body, especially around the abdominal region. The method is also known as sonography and the image produced is called a sonogram. The process uses the principle that is similar to that of radar or sonar technology and does not require any form of radiation.

As the process is safe, it is used to examine a growing fetus in pregnant women in most cases of pregnancy. The images are captured in real-time and show the internal organs along with the corresponding tissues and blood vessels.

While conventional methods of ultrasound generates flat, two dimensional images of the body, advanced techniques use the sound waves to generate 3D images of the internal organs. The special Doppler Ultrasound can be used to detect the flow of fluids through the body. It is generally of three types which are described below.
Color Doppler converts the generated images into an array of colors through a computer to show the direction and speed of flow of blood within the body.

Power Doppler is even more sensitive and is used for obtaining greater clarity on the blood flow. Spectral Doppler presents a graphical representation of the blood flow and can also generate distinct sounds of the flow pattern. The same technology is also used in other parts of the body in the form of echocardiogram that generates images of the heart or bone sonography to determine osteoporosis.

Why do I need to undergo an Ultrasound?

The process allows a doctor to study the internal organs under a variety of conditions and also to assess internal damage resulting from an injury. It is mainly done in the abdominal area which contains a variety of organs including the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, spleen, stomach and others. The process is used to study any of these organs as well as to examine the tissues, blood vessels, and abnormal growths. A doctor can recommend an ultrasound to study any of the following conditions.

– Abdominal pain.
– Liver disease.
– Kidney and gall bladder stones.
– Inflammations from abnormal hormonal response in the body.
– For conditions like appendicitis or pancreatitis.
– For abdominal aortic aneurysm.
– To determine cancers and tumours.
– For analysing various forms of hernia.
– Conditions like pyloric stenosis.
– To study the health of the organs in the pelvic region including reproductive organs.

The process is also used to confirm pregnancy and determine the growth of the baby along with the placenta and amniotic fluid levels in various stages of pregnancy. In addition, it also helps to ascertain all types of birth defects and investigate any related complications.

How is the Ultrasound performed?

The test is simple in nature and does not need any prior preparations. The exact nature of the test depends on the area to be tested and the doctor’s requirement.

The process uses an instrument called a transducer that emits high-frequency sound waves which are inaudible for human beings. The sound waves used are generally between the frequency range of 2 and 18 megahertz. These waves are reflected back from internal surfaces and are recorded and played back in a computer screen.

The more the density of the object that the sound waves hit, the more amount of it is reflected back. Different densities will result in different shades of grey. An ultrasound test generally consists of the following steps.

– You will be asked to lie on you back or on your side on a table.

– A small amount of water-soluble gel is applied on the skin of the area which is to be examined. It can be cleaned or wiped off easily after the procedure is over.

– The technician will place the hand-held transducer against the gel and move it back and forth to allow the passage of the sound waves in the best possible manner.

– You may be asked to hold your breath for a few seconds to ensure the clarity of the images. In some cases you may have to change your position as needed.

– The process may take anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes depending on the area being examined.

– After the test is over you will be free to resume your normal activities.

As per the requirements, ultrasound can be of internal type where a device attached to the end of the endoscope in inserted through the mouth, the vagina or the rectum. This is often used to study the digestive system, reproductive organs or the urinary system. During such cases, the patient is generally given some medication to ease the pain and discomfort. In some cases a minute transducer can be placed at the end of a catheter and inserted into blood vessels to examine the inner walls of the vessel.

What is the price for an Ultrasound test in India? 

The cost for an ultrasound test in India can vary from Rs 300 to 1600 depending on the area to be tested and the quality of facilities in the clinic.

When will I get the test results?

The test results are generally delivered within a day or two in most advanced clinics.

What is the normal range for an Ultrasound?

The ultrasound test produce images of the internal organs that are inspected by the doctor for any abnormalities or to study a particular condition in detail. Hence there is no specific normal range for the test. The doctor will share the results of the test with you and in some cases, follow-up tests may be required for further evaluation.

What do the results mean?

The images or the video recording generated during the test will be interpreted by the doctor to diagnose the ailment. The results can be studied to find out the cause of any pain or discomfort in the abdominal area or the health of an internal organ. It can also provide the details about a pregnancy and help in resolving any related complications. An abnormal detection in the ultrasound can lead to further tests like CT scan, MRI, or a biopsy sample of tissue. Follow-up tests may also be done to check the effectiveness of a treatment or to track the change in any abnormality. Depending on your condition, the doctor will begin the necessary treatment.

Do I need to fast for the Ultrasound?

The doctor may tell you to fast for 8 to 12 hours for an abdominal ultrasound as undigested food can block the sound waves. For some examinations, you will be asked to drink a lot of water so that the bladder is full when the test is being conducted. This will result in the generation of better images.

What else do I need to know before I appear for an Ultrasound?

The process of ultrasound imaging is extremely safe and is highly unlikely to generate any complications or negative effects. It may raise the temperature of the surrounding tissues of the inspected area for some time.

It is also widely available, painless and less expensive than the other imaging methods. Internal or endoscopic ultrasounds can be more uncomfortable than the external ones and in case you are allergic to latex, you should ask the technician to use a probe without any latex cover. The internal ultrasounds can result in some minor complications like internal bleeding or a sore throat.

In case you have been given a sedative during an internal ultrasound, you need to stay in the clinic till the effect of the same wears off. In such cases you will need someone to pick you up from the hospital and guide you home. Sound waves cannot penetrate through air or dense bones and hence the method of ultrasound is not used to study the lungs or the internal structure of bones.

Can pregnant women undergo an ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a non-invasive practice and is considered safe during pregnancy. However, the possibilities of long term risks have not yet been studied in detail and hence unnecessary scans are not recommended during pregnancy. The test should be carried out specifically under a medical recommendation.

Is ultrasound possible for new-born babies?

The test can be conducted on newborns when the same is needed medically.

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