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An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to make an image of the inside of the body.

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What is an Ultrasound (U/S) scan?

An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to make an image of the inside of your body. The ultrasound machine uses a handheld scanner or probe. The soundwaves come out of the probe and travel through the body to create the picture.

What might an ultrasound scan be used for?

An ultrasound can be used for the following:

  • Examine the neck, organs in the abdomen (stomach) or pelvis
  • Examine areas of swelling for example in the armpit or groin area
  • Assist to find the best place to take a biopsy (ultrasound guided biopsy)
  • Help find the best position to place a central line (a type of tube that is put into a vein to give medicines or take blood samples)
  • In a small number of patients affected by lymphoma who require drainage of fluid an ultrasound may be used to guide this process

What happens before the test?

Depending on what type of ultrasound is given there may be a need to fast (not eat or drink) before the scan. For some ultrasounds, a full bladder will be needed and therefore drinking a certain amount of water and not going to the toilet will need to happen. The staff at the imaging centre will advise if there are any specific rules to follow before the scan. It is important to tell the staff of any medical conditions, for example diabetes, high blood pressure.

What happens during the test?

Depending on the part of the body being scanned you will need to lie down and be on your back or side. The radiographer will put some warm gel on the skin and the scanner is then placed on top of the gel, that is on the skin. The radiographer will move the scanner around and at times may need to press which may be uncomfortable. It should not hurt and the process usually takes between 20-30 minutes. Some scans may take longer.

What happens after the test?

The radiographer will check the images to make sure they have all they need. Once the images have been checked you can go home and return to normal activities. The staff will advise if there are any special instructions.

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