Most people generally relate the term “ultrasound” with an image of a baby as it grows inside his/her mother. A lot of us think that it’s only used to check the progress of the baby’s development as well as to find out the gender. However, that’s not the only application of an ultrasound.
Also called sonography, an ultrasound makes use of high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. How does it do that? Well, these sound waves bounce off the soft tissues and organs within your body. The echoes cause by the sound bouncing back is recorded and then used to determine the size, shape, and consistency of your organs, tissues, and vessels. An ultrasound can be used to detect any problems inside your body without having to cut you open such as swelling, infection, and soft tissue injuries. As a tool, an ultrasound is quite effective in helping doctors diagnose certain conditions. It is also useful in helping doctors perform precise medical procedures such as needle biopsies.
During your ultrasound test, you will be asked to remove some or all of your clothes (for the latter, you will be asked to wear a gown instead). You may also be asked to remove any jewelry or other objects that might interfere with the scan. You will be asked to lie down on the examination table though your position will vary depending on the part of your body being examined. An echo gel will be applied on your body before the transducer is placed on your skin and moved back and forth over the area being examined. In some cases, you may feel a bit of pain when the transducer is pressed against an area of your body if it is tender. Otherwise, ultrasounds are painless. Once the required images have been captured, the technician or doctor will wipe the ultrasound gel from your skin with ultrasound wipes.
Now, what is the purpose of that gel? Well, a good echo gel is actually necessary to get a clear image when using an ultrasound machine. This is because ultrasound waves don’t travel through air well. In fact, air slows the waves down. There needs to be no air between the transducer (the probe) and your skin in order for the waves to transmit directly to the organs and tissues within your body. A good echo gel eliminates any pockets of air because the fluid serves as a medium connecting your skin and the probe. The gel also reduces any friction that may be caused by the transducer being rubbed on your skin. In fact, the more gel used, the better the image will be. As for the gel being thick, it’s designed that way to stop it from running off or dripping everywhere.
Before an ultrasound, "what to do" is often a concern for anyone unused to such a procedure. The good news is, ultrasounds are typically non-invasive and don't use radiation. This is why it's the method preferred by doctors when viewing the baby inside the mother's womb. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't any preparations that you need to make before getting one. What you need to do will depend on what type of ultrasound you'll be getting. We've listed down some of the preparations you can make for certain ultrasound tests below.
In general, you need to wear clothes that can be easily removed. While you may not be required to take off all your clothes, you need to be able to take off some of your clothes to allow the technician or doctor access to the area of your body being examined. In some cases, you will be asked to remove all your clothes and wear a gown instead.
The preparation for ultrasound of kidneys is pretty simple. You don’t need to do any fasting for the ultrasound. You just need to drink at least 24 ounces of clear liquid an hour before the procedure. You are also not allowed to pee (empty your bladder) before your ultrasound test.
When preparing for a pregnancy ultrasound, you may be required to have a full bladder to enable the technician or doctor to capture clear images of your fetus and reproductive organs. What this means is that you'll need to drink as much as three to six 8-oz glasses of water around an hour prior to the test and keep it all in (i.e. don't pee) until after the test.
For a chest ultrasound, there’s really no preparation to be made unless your doctor gives you specific instructions. You’ll need to do the same general preparations such as wearing loose or easily removed clothing and leaving your jewelry at home.
In preparation for an ultrasound of the liver, your doctor may ask you to eat a fat-free meal the night before the test. You may also be asked to do some fasting for the ultrasound which means no eating for 8 to 12 hours prior to your test.
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