What is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging, also known as ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a method of seeing inside the human body through the use of high frequency sound waves. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (as used in x-rays). The sound waves are recorded to create an image of body tissues. Information obtained from these images can be used along with other data to diagnose and treat medical conditions. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels. The exam is painless, although you may experience slight discomfort from your full bladder if you have been instructed to drink liquids prior to your exam.

Obstetrical Ultrasound

Preparation for this exam is drinking 32 ounces of water one hour prior to the exam. 

Obstetrical ultrasound provides pictures of an embryo or fetus within a woman's uterus, as well as the mother's uterus and ovaries.

A Doppler ultrasound study may be part of an obstetrical ultrasound examination.

Doppler ultrasound is a special ultrasound method that evaluates blood flow through a blood vessel, including the body's major arteries and veins in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck. During an obstetrical ultrasound the examiner may evaluate blood flow in the umbilical cord or may in some cases assess blood flow in the fetus or placenta.

What are some common uses of the procedure?

Obstetrical ultrasound is a useful clinical test to:

  • Establish the presence of a living embryo/fetus.
  • Estimate the age of the pregnancy.
  • Diagnose congenital abnormalities of the fetus.
  • Evaluate the position of the fetus.
  • Evaluate the position of the placenta.
  • Determine if there are multiple pregnancies.
  • Determine the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby.
  • Check for opening or shortening of the cervix or mouth of the womb.
  • Assess fetal growth.
  • Assess fetal well-being.

For more information on Obstetrical Ultrasound visit: www.radiologyinfo.org

Echocardiogram (Also Called 'Echocardiography')

An echocardiogram (echo) is a graphic outline of the heart's movement. During an echo test, ultrasound (high-frequency sound waves) from a hand-held wand placed on your chest provides pictures of the heart's valves and chambers and helps the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart. Echo is often combined with Doppler ultrasound and color Doppler to evaluate blood flow across the heart's valves.

Why is an echocardiogram performed?

The test is used to:

  • Assess the overall function of your heart 
  • Determine the presence of many types of heart disease, such as valve disease, myocardial disease, pericardial disease, infective endocarditis, cardiac masses and congenital heart disease
  • Follow the progress of valve disease over time
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of your medical or surgical treatments 

What are the benefits of Ultrasound?

  • Ultrasound is painless and non-invasive
  • Movement and live function in the body's organs can be seen in real-time display
  • Ultrasound imaging uses no X-ray radiation, and is the preferred imaging method for diagnosis and monitoring of pregnant women and their unborn fetuses

What Will the Exam Be Like?

Usually, you will be positioned on an examination table and will be awake during the exam. The exam is painless, fast and easy.

A clear gel will be applied to the area of your body to be examined. This allows the ultrasound transducer wand to glide easily and make secure contact with your skin. As the transducer moves it transmits a visual image on a video screen. There may be carrying degrees of discomfort from pressure as the transducer is moved over your body, especially if you are required to have a full bladder and the technologist or radiologist is pressing the transducer over you abdomen. The examination usually takes less than 30 minutes.

What Does the Equipment Look Like?

Ultrasound scanners consist of a computer, a video display screen and a transducer wand to scan the body. The transducer is a small hand-held device attached to the scanner.

How Should I Prepare for the Exam?

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your exam.
  • For some scans you may be instructed not to eat or drink for as long as 12 hours before your exam. For others, you may be asked to drink several glasses of water prior to your exam and not empty your bladder so that your bladder is full when the scan begins.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks before the exam as bubbles may interfere with the image.

How Will I Learn the Results?

A radiologist, who is a physician specializing in ultrasound and x-ray examinations, will analyze your images and report the results to your doctor. The results of your ultrasound will be made available to you through your designated healthcare provider or doctor. 


  • Advise your doctor or the radiologist of any allergies.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry.
  • Avoid soft drinks before the exam. Carbonation bubbles could interfere with the image. 

For more information or to make an appointment, please call (906) 485-2632.

(This information is intended to serve as a simple guide. It can never replace the conversations with your own doctor. It is not a substitute for professional care.)
(Some information on this page was provided courtesy of The St. John Companies, Inc. PO Box 800460 Santa Clarita, CA 91380)