Ultrasound Scan

Ultrasound scanning is a diagnostic tool used to examine many different parts of the body, including the liver, pelvic organs, kidneys and gallbladder.

It is a painless procedure, using sound waves. Ultrasound travels easily through liquid and soft tissue, but will “bounce back” if it hits something more solid such as bone or more solid tissue. An ultrasound will create an accurate visual image of your internal organs. It is widely used to monitor the well-being of an unborn baby and can also be used to monitor a variety of other conditions including gallstones, pancreatic problems, thyroid, kidneys, lymph nodes and musculoskeletal injuries in joints such as the shoulder, knee and ankle. Ultrasound can also be used to examine blood flow and to check for any thin or blocked blood vessels.

Visit our Scan Glossary for details of conditions Ultrasound scans are used for.

It’s important that you tell us
before the Ultrasound scan if:

  • you have had an Ultrasound scan within the previous six months
  • are diabetic

If you’ve never had an Ultrasound scan you might not know what to expect and this brief guide is designed to answer the questions that might be in your mind.

Did you know Ultrasound is a painless procedure and there are no known side effects?

Ultrasound scan

You might need to prepare for the scan; if it’s necessary, your appointment letter will make it clear what we want you to do. Some examples include:

  • If your pelvis, kidneys or bladder are to be scanned, you’ll need to make sure that your bladder is full.
  • If your gall bladder or pancreas are being scanned, we might ask you not to eat or drink for a number of hours before the scan.
  • Tell us about anything that might cause you difficulties – for example, if you’re a wheelchair user, you’re hard of hearing or have poor eyesight.
  • Please confirm your appointment by phone 24 hours beforehand your scan and arrive in plenty of time.
  • You’re welcome to bring a friend or a relative with you – and they can accompany you while you’re having the scan.
  • Once you’ve checked in at reception (don’t forget to bring your appointment letter), a Sonographer (the medical professional who operates the ultrasound equipment) will meet you and explain the procedure.
  • Please do remember not to go to the toilet if we’ve told you that you need a full bladder. If you start to feel uncomfortable, please let a member of staff know.
  • We might ask you to change into a hospital gown. We’ll provde you with a locker to keep your clothes and personal belongings safe.
  • You’ll be looked after by a Sonographer throughout the procedure – he or she will explain what’s happening, will examine the displayed images and prepare a report.
  • Ultrasound scans often require the Sonographer to access intimate parts of your body. For that reason it’s routine for a chaperone to be present during the procedure. If one isn’t present, you’re most welcome to ask for one.
  • You won’t need an injection.
  • We’ll ask you to lie down on a bed and we’ll dim the lights so that we can see the pictures on the screen more clearly.
  • We’ll put a cool, water-based gel on the skin over the area that’s going to be scanned. This will help the sensor slide easily over your skin.
  • We’ll ask you to lie in a position that’s suitable for your scan. We’ll help you into the correct position if you need us to.
  • We may ask you to breathe deeply and hold your breath for a few seconds.
  • If your bladder isn’t full enough, we may ask you to drink more liquid.
  • Ultrasound scans don’t cause any pain– except, of course, you might have an uncomfortably full bladder. If this becomes a problem for you, just tell the Sonographer.
  • If you’re having an ultrasound scan because you’ve got pain in the abdomen or pelvis, we might need to apply a little pressure on the skin over the area affected – and this might cause you slight discomfort during the scan.
  • The scan can take up to 30 minutes– unless your bladder isn’t full enough and we have to wait for it to fill sufficiently.
  • There are no restrictions on normal activity – you can eat and drink normally, drive and return to work immediately after the scan.
  • We’ll send the images and report to your Doctor or Consultant.

Is my ultrasound scan covered by my health insurance plan?

It is best to contact your insurer directly to find out if your ultrasound scan is covered by your plan on any of our 20+ sites.


Does an ultrasound exam hurt?

No an ultrasound exam is painless.


Why does the bladder need to be full for a pelvic exam?

A full bladder pushes the uterus in a position where we can see better and brightens up the entire pelvis so that we can adequately visualise the uterus and ovaries. It also moves the intestine from the bowel out of the way.


Can I have a transvaginal exam while I am still on my period?

Yes, but if you are uncomfortable in any way we would be happy to reschedule your appointment.


Can I have a chaperone for my ultrasound exam?

Yes that is no problem please mention that you want a chaperone when you are checking in.


Why do I have to fast for my abdominal ultrasound?

This decreases the amount of gas in the abdomen and allows the gallbladder to be adequately visualised. The gallbladder contracts when you eat or drink.


Does an ultrasound use radiation?

No. Ultrasound uses sound waves.

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