Ultrasound, also known as sonography, or ultrasonography, is a diagnostic procedure that transmits high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, through body tissues. The echoes are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images of the internal structures of the body.
Ultrasound images help in the diagnosis of a wide range of diseases and conditions. The idea for ultrasonography came from sonar technology, which makes use of sound waves to detect underwater objects.
Ultrasound is used to create images of soft tissue structures, such as the gall bladder, liver, heart, kidney, female reproductive organs -- and even of fetuses still in the womb. Ultrasound can also detect blockages in the blood vessels.
Ultrasound may be used with other diagnostic procedures or by itself.
The preparation for this test will depend on the type of ultrasound procedure your doctor has ordered. Some preparations include drinking a quart of water before the test to obtain better images. Other preparations may include eating a fat-free dinner the night before the test, or possibly fasting.
The physician, nurse or receptionist will give you complete instructions prior to the exam.
The images will be reviewed by a radiologist. A written report of the radiologist's findings will be forwarded to your referring physician, either by fax or mail. Your physician will discuss the test results with you.
Studies have shown that ultrasound is not hazardous. There are no harmful side effects. In addition, ultrasound does not use radiation, as x-ray tests do.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 03/19/2014