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The Ultimate Sound Wave: All About Ultrasound

The Ultimate Sound Wave:
All About Ultrasound

What is ultrasound?
How does ultrasound work?
What happens during an ultrasound test?
How does ultrasound feel?

What is ultrasound?
Ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the organs inside your body. It's used to find ovarian cysts and can tell different types of cysts apart. Ultrasound can often help tell the difference between a normal pregnancy growing in the uterus, a pregnancy that will become a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy back to top

How does ultrasound work?
The sound waves come from a wand, called a transducer, that's placed above the area of the body that you want to look at. The sound waves leave the wand and return after bouncing off the organs underneath. The pattern of the returning waves is translated into a picture on the ultrasound screen. No radiation is used in ultrasound. back to top

What happens during an ultrasound test?
A radiology technician performs this test. First the technician puts a bit of ultrasound gel on the area to be examined. Gel is used because the ultrasound waves don't travel well through air. The gel is cold sometimes, but it doesn't sting or stain. The wand is then placed on the gel so that there's no air between it and your body. By moving the wand around, the technician can see your internal organs on the screen of the machine. A camera inside the machine can also record permanent pictures of the test.

Ultrasound waves travel best through water. If you are getting an ultrasound of your belly area or your pelvic organs, you'll be told to drink a lot of water before the test. The water will fill your bladder, which is located in front of the uterus. The ultrasound waves will pass through the bladder and create a good picture of your organs.

You can get the best view of the pelvic organs by using a vaginal probe. A vaginal probe is an ultrasound wand that is inserted into the vagina. The probe is long and thin and covered with a disposable piece of plastic. The cover, not surprisingly, is called a condom. It's coated with lubricant so that it can slip into the vagina very easily. It will cause just a bit of pressure inside you.

With the vaginal probe, the technician can see very small ovarian cysts and very early pregnancies. You don't have to fill your bladder if the vaginal probe will be used.

Both the vaginal probe and the regular wand are cleaned very carefully before they are used. back to top

How does ultrasound feel?
Ultrasound is painless. The regular wand just rests on the skin of your belly. Even the vaginal probe is only slightly uncomfortable. back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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