If you’re scheduled for an ultrasound soon and don’t know what it entails, don’t worry. Although it might sound scary, ultrasound is a great and safe way for doctors to diagnose conditions better, follow the development of an unborn baby, and perform certain surgical procedures.
If you don’t know how long do ultrasounds take or how they are done, we’re here to help you understand it better. Read on to find out more about ultrasound and its main characteristics and purpose.
How Do Ultrasounds Work?
Ultrasound scans are used to see the inside of the human body to diagnose certain conditions or monitor an unborn baby. They work in a way that uses high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of a body part or organ. This is achieved by a small probe that gives off high-frequency sound waves. They can’t be heard though, but they show an image that the doctors use to interpret your state. These images are seen on the monitor as a moving image and show everything that’s necessary to diagnose a condition or assess the state of your unborn baby.
How to Prepare For an Ultrasound?
If you want to prepare for an ultrasound, you must be wondering about how long does an ultrasound take and what you should do before it. The thing is, the procedure is not that complicated and the doctor will ask you to follow some instructions before your ultrasound. Depending on the type of ultrasound and the body part that’s being examined, you can be advised to do the following:
- Drink a lot of water and avoid going to the toilet before the ultrasound, especially if you’re going in for a scan of your baby or the pelvic area.
- Avoid drinking and eating for a few hours before the ultrasound, particularly if you’re supposed to undergo a scan of your digestive system, including the gallbladder and liver.
- Undress and wear a hospital gown, if it’s necessary for the ultrasound scan.
- Take some sedatives if you’re too nervous or anxious about the scan, but generally, this is only a last resort.
- Some ultrasound scans are better shown if you’re injected with a contrast agent that ensures your scan images are clear enough for the doctor to make a diagnosis.
How Is an Ultrasound Performed and How Long Does an Ultrasound Take?
Ultrasounds are performed by medical staff that is specially trained to do this procedure. They are done in hospitals and clinics, in radiology departments, usually by a radiologist and a sonographer. Most ultrasounds last from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the type and the body part examined.
GPs and other health care practitioners, as well as gynecologists and midwives, can perform ultrasounds if they’re trained for it. Pregnant women should find a trustworthy doctor to guide them through their pregnancy and make sure everything’s okay at all times.
What Types of Ultrasound Exist?
If you’re about to go for an ultrasound, you should be aware of the ultrasound types that exist. There are three types, and this division is made based on the body part that’s being scanned:
- External Ultrasound Scan
To examine your heart or unborn baby, your doctor will perform an external ultrasound scan. Besides this, an external ultrasound scan can be used for examining other organs in your stomach and the pelvic area, and this is done by pressing the probe against your skin and moving it around over the part that’s being looked at.
To make the moving of the probe easier, the doctor will put some lubricating gel on your skin. This also helps the contact between your skin and the probe is not interrupted. Generally, this type of ultrasound scans is painless and the least uncomfortable of the three so you can relax. There are no known side effects, so you can resume your activities as usual afterward.
- Internal Ultrasound Scan
An internal ultrasound scan is performed if your doctor has to take a closer look at the organs inside your body, such as the womb, the ovaries or the prostate gland. This type is also known as the “trans-vaginal” ultrasound because the probe is usually inserted through the vagina for the procedure.
For an internal ultrasound, you will be asked to remove your underwear, lie on your back or side, and draw your knees to your chest. The doctor will then insert the probe with a sterile cover into your vagina or rectum to see the organs on the inside. This type of ultrasound can cause slight discomfort, but it’s not painful and doesn’t last too long. There are no serious side effects of an internal ultrasound except for slight discomfort.
- Endoscopic Ultrasound Scan
An endoscopic ultrasound scan requires that an endoscope is inserted into your body through your mouth to be able to closely examine your gullet and stomach. For an endoscopic ultrasound, you should lie on your side and stay still as the endoscope is moved through your body. This is the most uncomfortable of all three ultrasound types and you will probably be given a sedative to relax and a local anesthetic to numb your throat.
Once the endoscope is inside, the doctor will move it around slowly to take a better look at the organs and make a better diagnosis. Once the procedure is over, you might be advised to stay in the hospital until the anesthetic wears off and you’re able to function normally again. It is recommended to bring someone to take care of you for the day if you’re scheduled for an endoscopic ultrasound. You might feel discomfort, bloating, or have a sore throat after the procedure.
How Long Do I Have to Wait for the Ultrasound Results to Arrive?
Once you’re done with your ultrasound scan, you will probably be told the results on the spot or will be referred to the doctor who ordered the scans for further information. Generally, it shouldn’t take too long before the doctor tells you what the scans show and advise you on the further course of action if necessary. The doctor will discuss the results with you and provide you with the needed care and treatment. It’s important that you ask questions if you have any, and make sure to understand everything your doctor or gynecologist says and recommends.
Ultrasound is a very useful tool that medical staff takes advantage of to help their patients. Always ask your doctor whatever you need to know and make sure to understand the procedure before they perform it. Also, tell them everything they need to know about your medical state and allow them to provide you with the best possible care.
OB/GYN specialists from Gentle Gynecology and Obstetrics offer these and many other gynecological services. We are skilled in providing our patients with minute care and treatment while making sure to answer all your questions and doubts. Contact us today for more information!