What happens before the exam?
Some ultrasound exams require certain preparation; others do not. Exams of the upper abdomen may require that you not eat or drink for about eight hours before the appointment. Pelvic or obstetric exams may require you to drink enough water for the bladder to be full.
Who performs the exam?
Sonographers are health care professionals who are specially educated and trained to use ultrasound equipment and perform exams. Radiologists (doctors who specialize in diagnostic imaging) analyze and interpret the pictures produced by the ultrasound. Sometimes a radiologist will take more images when the sonographer is finished if more detail or views are needed.
What happens during the exam?
A warm gel is applied to the skin over the area to be scanned. As the sonographer moves the transducer back and forth over the body, images appear on the monitor. The sonographer views and records the images. Several different transducers may be used, depending on the organs being scanned.
You may be asked to hold your breath for a few moments while certain images are obtained. For some obstetric and gynecologic exams, a specially designed transducer may be gently placed inside the vagina. This type of transducer gives more accurate images because it is closer to the area being studied. Most women experience little or no discomfort from this portion of the procedure. The length of the examination depends on the nature of the study. Generally exams take about an hour.
What happens after the exam?
When the exam is complete, a radiologist will interpret the images. Reports on all exams are sent promptly to the doctor who ordered the exam.