What is an ultrasound?
An ultrasound machine has a hand-held scanner which is connected to a computer. It uses soundwaves to make pictures of the inside of your body. Some of the things ultrasound is used to look at are:
- monitoring the health of your unborn child if you are pregnant
- lumps (such as a lump on your neck), and biopsies of lumps (for example taking a very small sample of the lump to see if it is cancer)
- organs in your body (such as liver, kidneys, aorta)
- muscle tendons and ligaments around joints
- blood flow within your blood vessels.
Benefits of an ultrasound
- It is non-invasive.
- It is generally painless.
- It does not use radiation.
- It will help your doctor decide whether there is anything wrong with you.
Risks of an ultrasound
- There are no known risks.
- As ultrasound is not suitable for all parts of the body, a different type of scan may be needed (for example a CT scan).
- Bring your referral letter or request form and all X-rays taken within the last 2 years with you.
- Leave the X-rays with the radiology staff, as the doctor may need to look at them. The radiology staff will tell you when these are ready to be picked up.
- Leave all jewellery and valuables at home.
Before coming in for the ultrasound
- You may be asked to not to eat or drink anything before the ultrasound.
- You may be asked to drink a lot of water before the ultrasound.
- You may need a full bladder (you may be asked not to go to the toilet).
Just before the ultrasound
- You may be given a gown to wear.
Tell your doctor before the ultrasound
What happens during an ultrasound
You will be asked to lie on a table either on your side or on your back. You will be covered with a blanket, except for the part of your body being scanned.
The ultrasound staff will put a gel on your skin over the part of your body being scanned, so that there is good contact between the probe and your body. They will then place the hand held scanner on top of the gel, moving it around the area being scanned. Sometimes they will need to press, which may be uncomfortable, however this should not hurt.
When your ultrasound is finished the staff will give you something to clean off the gel and ask you to wait while they check the pictures.
The ultrasound usually takes about 20 to 40 minutes including the time taken to get ready. Some scans may take longer.
You have the right to refuse an examination and may do so if you wish. A written consent is generally not required for ultrasound.
When will I get the results?
The amount of time it takes for you to get your results will differ depending on where you get your scans done. The radiology doctor will look at the pictures and write a report. The pictures may be on films or on a CD.
Ask whether you should wait to take the pictures and report with you, or whether they will be sent to your doctor.
Your doctor will need to discuss the report with you. You will need to make an appointment to do this.
After an ultrasound
You will be able to go soon after the ultrasound is finished and can continue with normal activities.
Costs of an ultrasound
For an Australian patient in a public hospital in Western Australia:
- public patient – no cost to you unless advised otherwise
- private patient – costs can be claimed through Medicare and your health insurance provider
For a patient in a private hospital or private imaging site in Western Australia – ask your doctor or the staff where you are having your test done.
Where to get help
- See your doctor
- Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.