Ultrasound imaging is a non-invasive, painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce cross-sectional images.
Ultrasound is used extensively during pregnancy, and to assess many organs and superficial parts, as well as the heart and blood vessels. Areas of pain, swelling or infection can be directly assessed in real time. Because ultrasound is readily available and cost-effective, doctors often the first diagnostic test doctors order for abdominal, pelvic and musculoskeletal pain. Not all causes of pain show on ultrasound and so further testing may be needed. Ultrasound doesn’t involve ionising radiation, making it ideal for pregnant women and their babies, and children.
When the patient books an ultrasound appointment, our staff will advise of any specific preparation, but here is a guide to assist you:
- Breast, thyroid, duplex carotid, leg veins: No preparation required.
- Abdomen: Please fast for six (6) hours – nothing to eat, drink or smoke during this period. Take your usual medications with a sip of water (no milk or soft drinks).
- Urinary tract (kidneys, bladder and ureters, plus prostate in men): Your bladder must be full at appointment time. Empty your bladder one (1) hour before your appointment, then drink one (1) litre of clear fluid or cordial. Do not empty your bladder before your appointment unless really necessary.
- Pelvis: Bladder must be full at appointment time. Empty your bladder one (1) hour before your appointment, then drink one (1) litre of clear fluid or cordial. Do not empty your bladder before your appointment unless really necessary.
Are there any risks?
Since the 1980s, ultrasound has been extensively used throughout Australia and the world for medical imaging. The images are created when tissues at different depths reflect the ultrasound waves transmitted into the body, similar to radar used by boats and ships. At the intensities used for diagnostic medical purposes, no soft tissue damage has ever been observed in human or mammalian tissue. The sonographer will set the equipment to the lowest intensity necessary to achieve high quality images.
A radiologist will interpret the ultrasound images and provide the doctor who referred the patient with a comprehensive report about the findings.
Processing and reporting of an ultrasound scan could take up to two hours. The patient will be advised to return to the referring doctor to discuss the results.
If you are a registered a referrer you can access your patient’s ultrasound images and report through our secure online archival system, or view the films we provide. For more information about registering to access patient images visit the Access Medinexus Portal section. <3.1 for referrers>
Ultrasound provides useful information about the uterus, ovaries and fetus that enables appropriate antenatal care. Fetal size and heart rate are checked at all stages of pregnancy, as well as the maternal uterus, ovaries and cervix.
During the first trimester, an ultrasound can determine gestational age if the patient is unsure of the last menstrual period (LMP). If the patient has had symptoms such as bleeding or pain during the first trimester, an ultrasound can determine whether the pregnancy is within the uterus in the correct position, or whether the patient has miscarried.
During the second trimester, a morphology scan (18-22 weeks) is used to check fetal growth, numerous important organs such as the spine, heart, brain and kidneys, placental site, and amniotic fluid volume. During the morphology scan, the sonographer will check for signs of a possible genetic problem. The maternal uterus and ovaries are also checked. All Australian women are encouraged to have a morphology scan.
During the third trimester, an ultrasound can check the fetal position, placental appearance and site, how much fluid is around the baby, fetal well being and the baby’s growth compared with previous scans and the expected date of delivery.
Ultrasound can detect many, but not all, abnormalities. Demonstrating a fetal abnormality on ultrasound depends on many factors, including fetal age and fetal position at the time of the ultrasound, and the size and type of abnormality. Image clarity depends on the resolution of the equipment and how well the ultrasound can pass through the maternal abdominal wall. For example, image clarity is reduced when the mother’s abdominal wall is thickened due to obesity or scarred.
At South Coast Radiology we employ experienced, qualified sonographers accredited with the Australian Sonographer Accreditation Registry, and invest in the latest equipment to ensure patients receive the very best patient care. Our staff use ultrasound with care to ensure that patients benefit from what ultrasound offers, with minimum risk.
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