Having an ultrasound

What is an ultrasound?

Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of different parts of the body. A small hand-held sensor, which is pressed carefully against the skin surface, generates sound waves and detects any echoes reflected back off the surfaces and tissue boundaries of internal organs. The sensor can be moved over the skin to view the organ from different angles, the pictures being displayed on a screen and recorded for subsequent study. Most people think that this type of scan is only used for examining the unborn child but its use is widespread in medical practice.

Ultrasound images complement other forms of scans and are widely used for many different parts of the body. They can also be used to study blood flow and to detect any narrowing or blockage of blood vessels, for example, in the neck.

An ultrasound scan is also occasionally used for intimate examinations; for example, of the prostate gland in men or of the womb or ovaries in women. For some of these examinations, it may be necessary to place an ultrasound probe in the vagina or the rectum to look at internal structures. If you are having an intimate examination, the ultrasonographer will describe the procedure to you, and your consent will be sought. If you wish, a chaperone is available upon request.

It is important that you read your appointment letter carefully as some scans require you to have a full bladder or have fasted.

The examination

The examination is carried out by a Consultant Radiologist (a doctor), or an Ultrasonographer (a Radiographer) that specialises in ultrasound examinations.

If necessary you may be asked if you wish to change into a hospital gown for some examinations.

You will be asked to lie down on a couch and some warmed gel will be placed on the part of the body to be examined. A small plastic probe is then moved gently across the skin to obtain the image for the ultrasonographer or doctor to look at, on the monitor. Sometimes you will be asked to hold your breath or roll to your side.

If you have any concerns or questions please feel free to ask them.


There are no after effects and you may resume normal activities after the examination.

The Radiographer or Radiologist will issue a report to the doctor who requested the examination. If this was your GP then the result should be with them within ten days.