Taking Pictures With Sound

Diagnostic ultrasound, also known as sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of what’s inside your body. It has many uses, including assessing fetuses, evaluating blood flow, studying the heart, and evaluating a breast lump. It can be used on most soft-tissue organs, excluding bowels and lungs.

How Does Ultrasound Work?

Ultrasound waves travel freely through fluid and soft tissues, but they bounce back when they hit denser objects.  The echoes vary in strength, depending on what kind of tissue the sound waves encounter. Functioning like the sonar that guides submarines through water and bats in flight, ultrasound collects these echoes to make pictures of your body’s inner structure.
Ultrasound images are captured in a computer and are displayed on a monitor. They can be still images or a video recording.
No radiation is involved in ultrasound. Exams generally are painless and noninvasive, though ultrasound also can be used to guide insertion of a needle for a tissue biopsy. 

Preparing for Your Ultrasound Exam

Most ultrasound exams don’t require preparation, but some do.  You can expect a phone call from the hospital, telling you what is needed for your particular exam.

  • For an abdominal exam, you probably will be asked not to eat or drink for six to eight hours before your exam.  
  • You will receive similar instructions for a Doppler arterial bilateral scan of your arm or leg, or for a scan of your gallbladder, pancreas, liver or spleen.
  • For a bladder exam, you may be asked to drink one full quart of fluid an before the exam. 
  • For a prostate ultrasound, you’ll need to take a cleansing enema before coming for the exam. 
If you have any questions, please check with your doctor’s office, or phone one of our imaging technologists at (541) 269-8090.

What to Expect

At the hospital, you’ll check in at the Medical Imaging desk. After taking you to an exam room, a technologist will review your previous exams and ask you some questions about your condition.
Depending on the nature of your exam, you may be asked to undress. Our technologists are careful to preserve your modesty and dignity throughout the exam.
The technologist will apply an odorless, water-based gel to your skin before using a hand-help transducer to direct high-frequency sound waves into your body. Transducers come in many shapes, to work on different parts of the body. 
You’ll be able to watch the images on a monitor, but the technologist isn’t allowed to explain what you see.  The images will be interpreted by one of our board-certified radiologists, who then will provide the results to your physician. (A pathologist evaluates biopsies.)  

Technology and Professionalism

Our ultrasound team uses up-to-date equipment to give you the most accurate results possible. Our technologists have college degrees and are accredited through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. All are licensed by the Oregon Board of Medical Imaging and average more than 10 years’ experience.


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