Health Library

What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of different parts of a patient’s body. The ultrasound machine looks like a large computer on wheels. A small wand that acts as a camera is placed on the body and moved around the area to be examined. The ultrasound images are displayed on the computer screen.

Ultrasound is used to look at the appearance of a body part or an organ, not the function.

Ultrasound does not produce radiation and is not typically painful.

Preparing for the Exam

  • arriving, read the “During the Exam” information below and explain to your child what will happen during the ultrasound exam.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time.
  • Depending on the type of ultrasound exam your child is having, there may be special preparation required. This preparation may include fasting for a period of time before the exam, drinking water in order to arrive with a full bladder, or bringing a bottle / being prepared to breastfeed before or during an exam for an infant.
  • Some ultrasound exams do not require any special preparation at all.
  • Specific preparation for your child’s exam will be given to you when you schedule your appointment.
  • During the Exam

    • One of our ultrasound technologists will bring you and your child into an exam room.
    • You are encouraged to stay with your child during the entire exam.
    • Our rooms are kept fairly dark (like a movie theater) so that we can better see our screen.
    • Your child will be positioned on a soft table during the exam.
    • For some exams, clothing may need to be repositioned or removed. For privacy and comfort, we will keep your child covered as much as possible during their exam.
    • Warm ultrasound gel will be applied to the area of the body that needs to be examined and the technologist will move the ultrasound camera across that area to take pictures. The gel is wiped off after the exam.
    • Your child will be encouraged to lie as still as possible and, for certain exams, may be asked to hold their breath for a few seconds at a time.
    • Your child may watch our television or you may bring a book or electronic game for them. For infants you may bring a pacifier or favorite toy.
    • The ultrasound technologist will review the pictures with one of our radiologists. In some cases the radiologist will come in the room to take some ultrasound pictures as well.
    • Ultrasound exams vary in length depending on the type of exam, but most take between 30 minutes and one hour.

    After the Test

    Your child may resume normal activities unless otherwise directed.

    Results will be sent to your physician’s office and are usually available within 24 hours.

    Last Updated 06/2022

    Reviewed By Paula Bennett and Ann Gramling
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