Ultrasound

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Screening uses

Ultrasound may be used to screen for blood vessel diseases. By measuring blood flow and blockage in the carotid arteries, the test can predict potential risk for future stroke. Similarly, by measuring the diameter of the aorta in the abdomen, ultrasound can screen for aneurysm (abnormal dilatation) and the risk of rupture. These tests may be indicated for an individual patient or they may be offered as a community wide health screening assessment.

Therapeutic uses

Ultrasound may be used to help physicians guide needles into the body.

In situations where an intravenous line is required but it is difficult to find a vein, ultrasound guidance may be used to identify larger veins in the neck, chest wall, or groin.

Ultrasound may be used to guide a needle into a cavity that needs to be drained (for example, an abscess) or a mass that needs to be biopsied, where a small bit of tissue is removed for analysis.

What are the risks of ultrasound?

There are no known risks to ultrasound, and as technology has improved, the machines have become smaller, portable and available for use at the patient's bedside.

How do patients prepare for an ultrasound?

Preparation for ultrasound is minimal. Generally, if internal organs such as the gallbladder are to be examined, patients are requested to avoid eating and drinking with the exception of water for six to eight hours prior to the examination. This is because food causes gallbladder contraction, minimizing the size, which would be visible during the ultrasound.

In preparation for examination of the baby and womb during pregnancy, sometimes it is recommended that mothers drink at least four to six glasses of water approximately one to two hours prior to the examination for the purpose of filling the bladder. This helps improve the images captured during the exam.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2015
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