Ultrasonography & Ultrasound-Guided Biopsies 

What is an Ultrasound and what is it used to diagnose?

Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. It helps diagnose the causes of pain, swelling and infection in the body's internal organs and to examine an unborn child (fetus) in pregnant women. It also helps guide biopsies, diagnose heart conditions, and assess damage after a heart attack. Ultrasound is safe, noninvasive, and does not use radiation.


Ultrasound exams can help diagnose a variety of conditions and assess organ damage following illness.


Doctors use ultrasound to evaluate:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • infection

Ultrasound is a useful way of examining many of the body's internal organs, including but not limited to the:

  • heart and blood vessels, including the abdominal aorta and its major branches
  • liver
  • gallbladder
  • spleen
  • pancreas
  • kidneys
  • bladder
  • uterus, ovaries, and unborn child (fetus) in pregnant patients
  • eyes
  • thyroid and parathyroid glands
  • scrotum (testicles)
  • brain in infants
  • hips in infants
  • spine in infants

Ultrasound is also used to:

  • guide procedures such as needle biopsies, in which needles remove cells from an abnormal area for laboratory testing
  • image the breasts and image guided breast biopsies
  • diagnose a variety of heart conditions, including valve problems and congestive heart failure, and to assess damage after a heart attack. Ultrasound of the heart is commonly called an "echocardiogram" or "echo" for short

Doppler ultrasound helps the doctor to see and evaluate:

  • blockages to blood flow (such as clots)
  • narrowing of vessels
  • tumors and congenital vascular malformations
  • reduced or absent blood flow to various organs, such as the testes or ovary
  • increased blood flow, which may be a sign of infection

What to Expect

Before scheduling or arriving for your exam

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. You may need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined.


You may need to change into a gown for the procedure.


Preparation for the procedure will depend on the type of exam you will have. For some scans, your doctor may tell you not to eat or drink for up to 12 hours before your exam. For others, the doctor may ask you to drink up to six to eight glasses of water two hours prior to your exam and avoid urinating. This will ensure your bladder is full when the scan begins.


Ultrasound machines consist of a computer console, video monitor and an attached transducer. The transducer is a small hand-held device that resembles a microphone. Some exams may use different transducers (with different capabilities) during a single exam. The transducer sends out inaudible, high-frequency sound waves into the body and listens for the returning echoes. The same principles apply to sonar used by boats and submarines.


The technologist applies a small amount of gel to the area under examination and places the transducer there. The gel allows sound waves to travel back and forth between the transducer and the area under examination. The ultrasound image is immediately visible on a video monitor.



During the exam

Most ultrasound exams are painless, fast, and easily tolerated.


Ultrasound exams that insert the transducer into a body cavity may produce minimal discomfort.


With Doppler ultrasound exams, you may hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as they monitor and measure the blood flow.


Most ultrasound exams take about 30 minutes. More extensive exams may take up to an hour.





Brighton’s board-certified radiologist studies your Ultrasound and provides the results to your doctor.