Diagnostic UltrasoundA diagnostic ultrasound, also called sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, can provide valuable information for diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions. An ultrasound can also show parts of the body in motion, such as a heart beating or blood flowing through blood vessels.
What Can a Diagnostic Ultrasound Diagnose?
There are many types of ultrasounds that can be used for many reasons. You may have an ultrasound done to:
- Find out if blood is flowing at a normal rate and level
- See if there is a problem within the structure of your heart
- Look for blockages in the gallbladder
- Confirm and monitor a pregnancy
- Guide a needle for a biopsy or tumor treatment
- Detect genital and prostate problems in men
- Discover uterine fibroids and other reproductive conditions in women
- Examine a breast lump
- Check for abnormalities in the abdomen and kidneys
- Assess joint inflammation
For most ultrasound procedures, you’ll be asked to lie on an examination table. Special gel will be applied to your skin over the area being examined to help prevent air pockets. A small, hand-held device called a transducer will be pressed against the area being studied and moved around as needed to capture the images.
Sometimes, diagnostic ultrasounds are done inside the body. For these procedures, the transducer is attached to a probe that's inserted into a natural opening in your body.
What to Expect
Ultrasounds use low-power sound waves and are therefore a safe procedure that are not associated with any known risks. While an ultrasound is generally painless, you may experience mild discomfort depending on the area of your body that is being examined.
A diagnostic ultrasound is a valuable diagnostic tool and can provide images of various structures within the body. However, because sound doesn’t travel well through air or bone, they aren’t as effective at imaging body parts that have gas or are hidden by bone. To examine these areas, other forms of imaging tests, such as CT and MRI scans, are recommended.