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  • Post published:25/03/2021
  • Post last modified:04/09/2021

Ultrasound Scans

Ultrasound scans are one of the most common medical imaging diagnostic procedures, and it is being used to evaluate the health of organs and tissue as well as monitor the unborn baby.   In the UK you can have your diagnostic ultrasound in the NHS or you can opt for a private ultrasound instead.

What is an Ultrasound Scan?

The ultrasound scan or ultrasonography as otherwise known is a painless diagnostic imaging technique utilising high-frequency sound waves to produce internal images of the body.

It is called ultrasound, as the sound frequency being used is in the region of 1 to 20MHz. A sound frequency that the human ear can’t hear. These are the frequencies used by the navy sonar and by animal echolocation such as dolphins and bats.

The ultrasound waves are produced by the transducer or the probe, as most commonly known. As these sound waves travel through the body, it bounces back because of differences in the tissues. The bounced back sound waves are called echoes. These echoes are picked up by the probe, and a powerful computer analyses them and creates the 2d ultrasound image on the scanner screen.

A woman is having an ultrasound scan in a private clinic in London. The sonographer is resting an ultrasound probe on her abdomen

The ultrasound technique was developed during World War 2. The purpose was to find submerged objects.  Today, it is widely used for medical purposes. Different body parts can be examined by using sonography. Some commonly looked at parts include the heart, blood vessels, female reproductive system, breasts, abdomen, prostate and so on. In obstetrics, the technique is used to study the number, location and age of the fetus. It can also be used to detect abnormalities such as liver diseases and gallstones. Cardiac ultrasound can be used to identify heart diseases

You can read more about the history of ultrasound.

What is an ultrasound scan used for?

There are various kinds of sonograms that can be performed, and each looks at a different part of the body to confirm or exclude possible pathology.

In our ultrasound practice, it is commonly used to diagnose problems in the:

  • Abdomen (abdominal ultrasound)
  • Female pelvis to check uterus and ovaries (Gynaecological scan), abdominal or transvaginal scan
  •  Testes and Prostate gland
  • Urinary tract, kidneys, ureter and bladder
  • For the veins of the legs to check blood flow and clots
  • The joints and tendons of the body
  • Major blood vessels
  • Soft Tissue to examine lumps and bumps.
  • Neck to check the thyroid and the lymph nodes

Unlike CT and MRI, ultrasound does not use radiation and therefore is pregnancy-friendly and therefore, is being used in all stages of pregnancy starting from as early as 5 weeks gestation.

Ultrasound scanning is live and is ideal for musculoskeletal exams to evaluate moving joints.

Specialist Ultrasound Techniques

In some situations, a clearer picture can be obtained when an ultrasound probe is inside the body. Specially shaped and designed probes can be placed inside the vagina (transvaginal) or the rectum (transrectal). If you need to have this type of scan you will be informed beforehand and the radiologist or sonographer will explain what they are doing all the time.

What does it involve?

Ultrasound is carried out by a Consultant Radiologist or specialist trained Radiographer called Ultrasonographer or Sonographer, skilled in the technique and interpretation.

You will usually lie on a couch in a darkened room and the doctor will place a handheld probe, the size of a small camera, on the skin over the area to be examined. Lubricating jelly is used so that the probe can be moved easily and to allow good contact with the skin. Gentle pressure is applied, and you may be asked to turn or move to obtain optimum pictures. Often you will be able to watch the ultrasound machine monitor, where the picture is constantly updated during the scan.

Why would you need an Ultrasound?

The most common reasons your doctor will request ultrasound imaging  are:

Pelvic scans: This scan can be performed both transabdominal and transvaginally.

Transabdominal scans require a full bladder. You will need to consume a litre of water 30 to 60 minutes prior to your scan taking place. The ultrasound probe is pushed against the lower abdominal wall to look down into the pelvis.

A transvaginal (TV) scan is performed with an empty bladder, using a thin probe inserted into the vagina. This allows detailed information to be obtained by having the probe closer to the pelvic organs.

Abdominal scans: Performed transabdominal, these scans usually involve fasting for four hours before the examination to allow for improved imaging of the liver and gall bladder.

Renal scans: Performed transabdominal with a full bladder, this requires the patient to drink a litre of water 30 to 60 minutes prior to the scan taking place. This scan then helps to assess the kidneys and bladder.

Doppler Venous/arterial scans:  Doppler imaging analyses the flow of blood within vessels.

Musculoskeletal scans: These are carried out by a musculoskeletal specialist.

What are the benefits and risks of sonography?

What are the Benefits of an Ultrasound?

  • Ultrasound exams are noninvasive.
  • An ultrasound test may be occasionally, temporarily uncomfortable, but it should not be painful.
  • Ultrasound is widely available, easy-to-use and less expensive than other imaging modalities.
  • Ultrasounds are extremely safe and do not use any ionizing radiation.
  • Ultrasound scanning gives a clear picture of soft tissues such as the liver that does not show up well on x-rays.

Risks 

  • There are no known harmful effects on adults or babies related to an ultrasound scan. Unlike some other scans, such as CT, ultrasound scans don’t involve exposure to radiation.

What are the disadvantages of an Ultrasound?

Sound waves do not travel well in the bowel or gas, so abdominal organs such as the stomach and bowel or organs obscured by bowel cannot be fully evaluated with ultrasound.

It can also be hard to fully visualise the internal anatomy of large patients as the sound waves have further to travel and therefore the returning echoes are weaker.

Are there any special preparations needed for a scan?

This will depend on the kind of imaging test you are having. You should have received information about preparation with your appointment confirmation. It is therefore very important to read your confirmation letter/e-mail carefully.

Certain types of ultrasound scans may need you to follow specific instructions to improve the image quality of the scan.

Examples include:

  • Drink plenty of water and do not empty your bladder until after your scan – this may be necessary before an antenatal scan or gynaecological pelvic scan.
  • Avoid eating for 8 hours before your scan, but drink plenty of clear fluids and do not empty your bladder until after the scan – this may be necessary before an abdominal scan checking your liver and gallbladder.

External Ultrasound scan

An external ultrasound scan is used to examine the liver, kidneys and other organs in your abdomen. It can also be used to assess your muscles and joints and many other organs through your skin.

A lubricating gel is put on your skin and a small handheld probe is moved over your skin to assess the underlying structures. You should not feel anything other than the sensor and gel on your skin.

Internal or Transvaginal Ultrasound scan

An internal ultrasound allows our ultrasonographer to look through the vagina. During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back and a small probe will be gently passed into the vagina and the images are transmitted to a monitor.

Internal examinations are ideal for looking at your ovaries and womb and may cause some discomfort, but should not be painful.

Who will I see?

Our Sonographer, a Health Care Professional specifically trained to perform and understand the ultrasound scan images, will do your ultrasound scan exam and provide you with a written ultrasound scan report that you can take it your doctor.  Our sonographers will also discuss the ultrasound scan results with you during and after your scan.

How long does a scan usually take?

The actual examination takes 10 to 15mins depending on the scan you’re having. Please allow some extra time for your ultrasound report.  

Where to get an ultrasound scan in London?

If you are looking for a private ultrasound in London to reduce the NHS waiting times and get quick answers for your health, you can rest assured that our sonographers have the skills and the knowledge to provide you with the instant answers you need. At International Ultrasound Services we offer diagnostic ultrasounds that can help to reassure you and in cases of any abnormalities to seek medical help. You can now book your appointment online or over the phone.

The private scans are performed by highly qualified sonographers who perform precise examinations to help predict and diagnose any situation that might arise. Our patients benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.

Preparing for  Ultrasound Imaging

Certain types of ultrasound scans may need you to follow specific instructions to improve the image quality of the scan.

Examples include:

  • Drink plenty of water and do not empty your bladder until after your scan – this may be necessary before an antenatal scan or gynaecological pelvic scan.
  • Avoid eating for 8 hours before your scan, but drink plenty of clear fluids and do not empty your bladder until after the scan – this may be necessary before an abdominal scan checking your liver and gallbladder.

How is an Ultrasound Scan done?

External Ultrasound scan

An external ultrasound scan is used to examine the liver, kidneys and other organs in your abdomen. It can also be used to assess your muscles and joints and many other organs through your skin.

A lubricating water-based gel is applied to your skin and a small handheld probe is moved over your skin to assess the underlying structures. You should not feel anything other than the sensor and gel on your skin.

Internal or Transvaginal Ultrasound scan

An internal ultrasound allows our ultrasonographer to look through the vagina. During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your back and a small probe will be gently passed into the vagina and the images are transmitted to a monitor.

Internal examinations are ideal for looking at your ovaries and womb and may cause some discomfort, but should not be painful.

Transrectal Ultrasound

A transrectal ultrasound allows our ultrasonographer to look through the rectum (back passage). During the procedure, you will be asked to lie on your side and a small probe will be gently passed into your rectum and the images are transmitted to a monitor.

Transrectal examinations are ideal for looking at the prostate or when a transvaginal scan is not possible, for example in patients with virgo intacta.

Do you get ultrasound results immediately?

If you had your scan in the NHS, it is more likely that you will have to wait a few days until the report reaches your GP or consultant. If you had your scan in a private clinic you will probably receive your results immediately or within a few hours.

What is a Doppler ultrasound scan?

Colour Doppler or colour flow Doppler, which was discovered by Christian Doppler in 1841, is the technology to visualize blood flow during an ultrasound scan. Colour flow is being used all the time these days as it helps to differentiate between different structures, for example, a blood vessel and a cyst that can have a similar appearance on ultrasound. It helps to evaluate the vascularity of a tumour found for example in the breast scan, pelvic scan or liver scan. It helps to evaluate the vascularity of whole organs such as in the thyroid scan in cases of thyroiditis.

 

Do you need a private ultrasound in London?

How accurate is an ultrasound scan

Ultrasound scans are accurate in diagnosing specific diseases. Accuracy however depended on the experience of the sonographer or radiologists as well as the quality of the ultrasound scanner.

How much is an ultrasound scan?

There various factors affecting the price you pay for an ultrasound scan, such as the location and experience of the operator. You can find the prices of our ultrasound scans is clearly marked on the specific examination, or you see all the prices of ultrasounds.

 

 

Where can I get an ultrasound in London?

If you live in London your doctor can refer you for an ultrasound scan to your nearest NHS hospital. As the NHS scanning waiting time in most London hospitals is around 6 weeks, you can opt to have a private ultrasound instead in one of the local ultrasound clinics.

What is a Private Ultrasound Scan?

A private scan is an ultrasound scan undertaken by a private healthcare provider where the cost of the examination is undertaken solely by the patient or through a private health insurance provider. The alternative to a private ultrasound scan is an ultrasound provided by the NHS. We offer baby scans and scans for men and women.

Why have a private ultrasound in London?

The main reason patients choose to go private is to:

  • Reduce NHS waiting times,
  • Get faster results and treatment
  • Choose a flexible and more suitable time
  • Reduce anxiety associated with not knowing
  • Convenience

Can I get an ultrasound without a referral?

Yes, you can self-refer.
Unlikely the other Imaging Modalities, a doctor’s referral is not necessary for an ultrasound examination. You do however need a referral if you plan to have your scan through the NHS instead of a private clinic.

How much does a private ultrasound scan cost?

The price of a private ultrasound scan in London shouldn’t be prohibited when it comes to someone’s wellbeing. The cost of scans in London however ranges from as little as £99 to more than £400.

Our ultrasound scan prices are competitive and affordable, with no compromise to the level of care. The price you see for the ultrasound scan is the price you pay with no hidden extras and no booking fees

Private Ultrasound

 If you are looking for reassurance early in your pregnancy (not 4D ultrasound) or a general medical private ultrasound in London to visualise the internal organs and body structures to get quick answers about your health, you can rest assured that our sonographers have the skills and the knowledge to provide you with the instant answers you need. 

Written by:

Updated on:

Medically Reviewed by Tareq Ismail Pg(Dip), BSc (Hons)

 

 

About the Author: Yianni Kiromitis PgC (Medical Ultrasound), BSc(Hon)

I have 15+ years in ultrasound scanning and more than 20 years experience in Diagnostic Imaging. I have worked for multiple NHS hospitals as well as in the private sector.