UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

Ultrasound

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound uses high frequency sound to make still pictures of structures in the body. Ultrasound uses no radiation and is a painless procedure useful in viewing organs such as the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, uterus, thyroid, and several other soft tissue organs. There have been no harmful effects reported from ultrasound use in more than two decades.

How to prepare for your exam

Unless you are instructed otherwise, there is no preparation for the ultrasound examination. However, special preparation is required for abdomen and pelvic ultrasounds. If you're scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound, you are not to eat or drink eight hours prior to the exam. Food ingestion will interfere with the abdominal exam. If you're scheduled for a pelvic ultrasound, you must drink 32-36 ounces of water approximately one hour prior to your scheduled exam. It is imperative that you do not empty your bladder prior to the exam. A full bladder aids in the imaging of the uterus and ovaries. If your bladder is inadequately full, the test will be postponed while your bladder continues to fill. If you are scheduled for both an abdomen and pelvic ultrasound on the same day, you will begin drinking after the abdomen ultrasound is performed. Please do not eat or drink anything prior to your abdomen ultrasound.

What happens during the exam?

The sonographer will ask you to lie on your back during the procedure. Warm gel will be applied to the skin and a small instrument called a transducer will be slowly moved across your skin. The majority of exams take no longer than 45 minutes. If you are scheduled for a pelvic ultrasound, a vaginal probe may be used in order to view the pelvic organs more closely. This exam will be done in addition to the pelvic ultrasound but you will be able to empty your bladder before the vaginal ultrasound is performed.

After your exam

At the end of the exam, you will be asked to wait while the sonographer reviews the pictures with the radiologist. Occasionally, the radiologist requires more images to be obtained. Because your ultrasound must be interpreted by a radiologist, you will not receive results from the sonographer. A written report will be sent to your physician. The report usually takes two to three days to be sent to your physician, who will then contact you with the results. Emergent results are called to your physician immediately.