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ultrasound.jpgAn ultrasound scan is a painless test that provides images of the inside of the body using high frequency sound waves. These sound waves are at a frequency which cannot be heard by the human ear but when they bounce off different parts of the body, create echoes that are picked up by the probe and turned into a moving image. High frequencies provide better images but they are unable to penetrate as deeply as lower frequencies. On the other hand low frequencies are able to penetrate deeper into the body but the image is not high in quality. 

 

 

What can an ultrasound show and why are they done?

Ultrasound images provide information about the structures within the body.   Increasingly ultrasound has become a common test to assist healthcare professionals to either determine a diagnosis, screen for specific problems or as a guide during interventional procedures such as a biopsy.

There are many kinds of ultrasound scan that can be performed. Each scan either looks at a different aspect of your body, such as a pelvis scan which looks at at the pelvic organs, or is performed during a specific period in time such as an early pregnancy scan looking at the development of a fetus to assess viability.

 

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Scans can be used to asses many organs such as the liver, kidneys, pelvis, skin, soft tissues, muscles and joints however due to the physics of sound it can not look at very dense structures such as bone.

Sometimes health professionals need to look more closely inside the body at the organs therefore an internal scan may be appropriate. This type of scan is commonly used to examine the prostate gland, ovaries or womb and is carried out by a special endoscopic type of ultrasound probe which is passed into the body. 

Common problems detected during a scan include gallstones, kidney stones, polycystic ovaries, fibroids, muscle tears and prostate enlargement to name a few. 

Ultrasound also has many uses during pregnancy, such as monitoring the growth of a baby or babies, determining due dates, ruling out ectopic pregnancy and screening for specific structural abnormalities such as cleft lip. Unfortunately due to it's limitations however it can not detect all fetal abnormalities and sometimes although specific abnormalities may have the potential to be detected, are not picked up due to limitations such as BMI, gestational age or size and position of the baby.

Recently non-diagnostic ultrasound has also been increasingly used during pregnancy for purposes such as maternal bonding, gender & 4D scanning (used to view a baby in three-dimensional space). 

Ultrasound scans therefore have numerous applications in healthcare and ultimately are beneficial to us if used in the right context by a competent body or person.  However as with any test, ultrasound scans have limitations some of which are generic to all scans such as not being able to visualise bone clearly or scan specific and therefore may not be suitable in certain situations.  

 Common clinical applications include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound: To visualise the anatomy and pathology of the liver , gallbladder, bile ducts, spleen, kidneys, pancreas.
  • Pelvic ultrasound: To assess the prostate, urinary bladder, reproductive organs, adnexal masses, vascular structures, lymph nodes.
  • Obstetric ultrasound: To assess the fetus and related structures in pregnant women.
  • Small parts ultrasound: Thyroid, scrotum, breast, soft tissue and many more small structures.
  • Cardiovascular ultrasound including echocardiography: To assess the heart and peripheral vascular structures.
  • Transfontanelle ultrasound: To visualise the intracranial structures before the closure of the fontanelles in paediatric patients or through boreholes.
  • Intraluminal Ultrasound: To assess gastrointestinal tract and the blood vessels.

 

Are there any risks to having an ultrasound scan?

Ultrasound is considered very safe worldwide with minimal known adverse effects and no radiation exposure (World Health Organization)

 

Are there any special preparations needed for a scan?

You may need to prepare for a scan and if you do, this will be explained to you prior to your appointment. For example, if your pelvis, kidney or bladder are to be scanned, you may be required to ensure that your bladder is full before the examination can begin. Any preparation advised is important and should be adhered to as it aims to maximise the potential visualisation of the structures being examined and therefore achieve greater diagnostic capability.

 

Ultrasound-probe-green-tunic-examination.jpgWho will I see?

You will be cared for by a small team and seen by a healthcare professional who specialises in clinical medical ultrasound. As ultrasound is "real time" imaging the quality of the scan and ultimately the information you take away depends upon the expertise & skill of the person scanning you. This is an important point for consideration hence why at The Scan Clinic you will always see an expert who has vast expertise and experience in the field of medical ultrasound.

 

What happens during the examination?

During the scan you may be asked questions about your health and in particular your current symptoms and may also be examined. 

Generally you will be invited to sit or lie down on a couch and requested to expose the area where the scan will be performed. The lights in the room may be dimmed so that the images on the monitor are clearer. A water based gel will be applied to your skin over the area to be examined, for example the abdomen. The gel allows the sensor to slide easily over the skin and helps produce clearer images.  Sometimes you will be on your back or you may be asked to turn on your side, lie flat on your stomach or stand up during the examination. The positions will vary depending upon the scan.  You may be asked to take deep breaths and to hold your breath for a few moments. The clinician will move the probe over your skin while viewing the images on the screen. Upon completion, the gel can be wiped off and you will be free to get dressed.

 

How long does a scan usually take?

The process of carrying out a scan usually takes around 15-20 minutes however this can vary depending on the type of scan or procedure being performed. 

 

How much does an ultrasound scan cost?

The price of a scan will vary and is dependent on many factors however The Scan Clinic believes in affordable healthcare and our services will not break the bank! 

Browse our site further to explore the scans & services we have to offer or if you would like more information please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

 

The Scan Clinic