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0 What is an Ultrasound Scan

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Ultrasound Scans

Ultrasound scans are one of the most common diagnostic procedures and it is being used to evaluate the health of organs and tissue as well as monitor an unborn baby. 

 

 

What is an Ultrasound Scan?

 

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

It is called ultrasound as the sound frequency being used is at 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 bounce 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.

 

What is it used for?


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

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

  • Abdomen
  • Female pelvis amd ovaries(Gynaecological)
  •  Testes and Prostate
  • Urinary tract, kidneys, ureter and bladder
  • In the veins of the legs
  • The joints and tendons of the body
  • Major blood vessels
  • Soft Tissue to examine lumps and bumps.

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 the 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. Warm 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 monitor where the picture is constantly updated during the scan.

Why would you need an Ultrasound?

The most common reasons your doctor will request an ultrasound scan  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 speciali

What are the benefits and risks of sonography?

Benefits 

  • Ultrasound scans are noninvasive.
  • An ultrasound scan exam 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.
  • Ultrasound scans are extremely safe and do not use any ionizing radiation.
  • Ultrasound scanning gives a clear picture of soft tissues such as 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 limitations of Ultrasound Imaging

Sound waves do not travel well in bowel or gas so abdominal organs such as 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 scan 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 having. Please allow some extra time for your ultrasound report.  

 

Preparing for an Ultrasound scan

Certain types of ultrasound scan 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.

 

Where can I get an ultrasound in London?

If you live 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 are around 6 weeks, you can, opt to have a private ultrasound instead in one of 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 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 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 range 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. 

 


 

AuthorYianni Kiromitis PgC Medical Ultrasound, BSc(Hons) - Medical Ultrasound Practitioner 

Specialities:   Abdomen, Small Parts, Gynaecology/Obstetrics and Vascular...
Yianni Kiromitis is a London based NHS and Private Medical Sonographer, with more than 20 years’ experience in Healthcare. 

 

 Reviewed: 28/06/2020 by Yianni Kiromitis PgC Medical Ultrasound, BSc(Hons)  and Tareq Ismail  Pg (Dip) Medical Ultrasound, BSc(Hons)

 

 

 

 

 

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