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Diagnostic ultrasound, also called sonography or diagnostic medical sonography, is an imaging method that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of structures within your body. The images can provide valuable information for diagnosing and treating a variety of diseases and conditions, without an incision or the use of radiation.

Most ultrasound examinations are done using a sonar device outside your body, though some ultrasound examinations involve placing a device inside your body.

Why Might I Need an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound exams are painless studies used to examine:

  • The structures of the heart and blood vessels for clots, plaques and obstructions
  • A baby during pregnancy
  • Abdominal structures like thyroid, gallbladder, kidneys, bladder, uterus, ovaries, and testicles
  • The breasts, usually combined with mammography
  • Ultrasound-guided needle aspirations and biopsies
  • Tendons and joints, using a musculoskeletal ultrasound (MSK US)
  • The liver, using FibroScan®

How to Prepare

During an ultrasound exam, you may need to remove jewelry and some or all of your clothing, change into a gown, and lie on an examination table. A typical ultrasound exam takes from 30 minutes to an hour.

Most ultrasound exams require no preparation, with a few exceptions:

  • Pelvic/TV Ultrasound: Patient to drink 32 oz. of clear fluid 1 hour prior to appointment.
  • Renal Ultrasound: Must have full bladder; 16 oz. of water 1 hour prior to appointment.
  • Pelvic Ultrasound: Must have full bladder; 24-32 oz. of water 1 hour prior to appointment.
  • Abdominal Ultrasound: If scheduled before 11am; nothing by mouth after midnight. If scheduled after 11am; nothing by mouth 8 hours prior to exam.
  • Aorta Ultrasound: Nothing by mouth 3 hours prior to appointment.

If scheduled for a FibroScan®:

  • Nothing by now at least 3hrs before your appointment
  • Must not be pregnant
  • No implantable devices or pumps (i.e. acemaker, cardiac defibrillator, implantable neurostimulator)

Please consult your physician and be sure to follow all instructions provided by your healthcare provider to prepare for your ultrasound procedure.