This page is for you if you are curious about what an ultrasound procedure is like. Because there are many different types of ultrasound tests (also called sonograms), there are different ways to prepare for them. When you call to schedule your procedure, you will be told if any special preparation (such as an overnight fast) is required.
The examination itself may be performed by a trained ultrasound technologist (also called a sonographer), by a radiologist, or both. Unlike most other specialists, radiologists’ primary job is to intepret medical images, and they have special training in the technology and techniques of ultrasound. They are also best equipped to use all the available clinical and other imaging information to arrive at a diagnosis.
For most ultrasound exams, you will be asked to lie on an examination table. The examiner will place a special gel on your skin to allow the sound waves to pass into your body, and will then move a hand-held device called a transducer over your body to obtain images. Depending on the area being scanned, you may be asked to lie in various positions, hold your breath, or perform other maneuvers. In some cases, you may even be asked to sit or stand. Most ultrasound exams are not painful, but it is important for you to let the examiner know if you feel pain at any time, because this may help the radiologist make a diagnosis.
If you have been scanned by a sonographer, a radiologist may come into the room to take additional pictures. This does not necessarily indicate that there is something wrong. It may allow the radiologist to be more certain that your exam is normal, or give the radiolgist a chance to ask you questions. If you are concerned, do not hesitate to ask the sonographer or radiologist.
We have separated ultrasound procedures into the most common categories. To assist you in deciding where to look, the different types of ultrasound and the kinds of things they are used for are described below. (Some of the procedures also have links that you can click on for further information.) The website RadiologyInfo.org has patient-centered information on a wide range of imaging procedures.