Ultrasound may be a form of scanning technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to provide pictures of structures within the body. It is additionally called ultrasonography or medical ultrasonography.

Different uses of ultrasound scans
  • Abdominal scans – may be used to investigate abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, abnormal sounds and lumps. Structures to be examined may include the gallbladder, bile ducts, liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and large blood vessels. Structures that contain air (such as the stomach and bowels) can’t be examined easily by ultrasound because air prevents the transfer of the sound waves
  • Pelvic scans – may be performed if a woman is suffering pelvic pain or has abnormal periods, fibroids, cysts or other conditions associated with the female reproductive system
  • Pregnancy scans – used to check for fetal abnormalities (such as spina bifida), check the age and position of a fetus, and monitor fetal growth and development.
  • Other uses – musculoskeletal scans (to check regions like a shoulder, hip or elbow), breast scans (for example, to further investigate an abnormality picked up by physical examination or mammogram) and a scan of a person’s eye (to check its internal structures). A special type of ultrasound scan, called a Doppler ultrasound, is used to detect the speed and direction of blood flow in certain regions of the body, for example, neck arteries and leg veins.
Ultrasound Procedure

If you are having an upper abdomen ultrasound, you will need to lie down on an examination table or bed. The ultrasound technologist, known as a sonographer, will place some gel onto your skin to provide better contact between your body and the ultrasound probe. They will then place the hand-held probe on your skin above the area of your body, organ or tissue that is being studied. The two-dimensional (or sometimes three-dimensional) pictures are shown instantly on a monitor.

Other types of ultrasound may need a slightly different procedure. For example, a woman undergoing an investigation of her pelvis may have a transvaginal scan, which involves inserting a special ultrasound probe into the vagina rather than (or as well as) scanning through the front of the pelvis.