Preparing For Ultrasound Scans - A Comprehensive Guide

Written by Joy Biradee
July 8, 2021

Preparing For Ultrasound Scans - A Comprehensive Guide

Credit: iStock

Preparing for ultrasound scans may be new to you if you haven't undergone one before. Because your doctor needs to get a view of inside your body, he has sent you for the ultrasound scan. 

Just as your doctor has questions about your body and your health, you have questions about ultrasound scans. The scan result will answer your doctor's questions.  This article will answer your questions about ultrasound scans.

What are Ultrasound Scans?

Scans in medicine are basically designed to look inside your body without cutting you open. The most common scans are Ultrasound, CT and MRI scans. Ultrasound scans, as the name implies uses ultrasonic waves to look into the body. These are sound waves at frequencies so high that the human ear can’t hear them.  

Just about any part of the body can be scanned using ultrasound. The coolest part of ultrasound scans is being able to scan the fetus of a pregnant woman.  These scans can be used to check if the fetal organs look okay. However, ultrasound scans can also be used for many other scans with amazing diagnoses.

Are Ultrasound Scans For Pregnant Women Alone?

It’s true that pregnant women will have to do several scans in the course of their pregnancy.  However, ultrasound scans can be used in many routine and emergency cases. For example, it can be used in diagnosing an enlarged prostate. Or it can help in determining if a breast lump is solid or cystic (fluid-filled). And it can tell if the cause of that back pain is a kidney stone - the list is endless! Ultrasound is a very versatile and low-risk tool used in the hospital.

Preparing for Ultrasound Scans - What You Need to Do

Preparing for ultrasound scans can be quite easy. However, you may need to do or stop something when preparing for ultrasound scans. I’ll try to explain the basic types of preparation for some scans depending on the area being scanned. More details will be provided when each of these is discussed in detail.

Abdominal Scans

Abdominal ultrasound scans are used to check the organs that are situated within the abdominal cavity. These organs include the spleen, kidneys, pancreas, liver and gallbladder.

Try not to eat a meal for 6 to 8 hours before this scan. This serves to clear the upper gastrointestinal tract of food particles. If these are present during a scan, they could resemble a lesion or mask one. It also helps the gall bladder fill up so it can be determined if there is a gallstone or if there are any diseases affecting the area.

Pelvic Scans

Pelvic ultrasound scans are used to assess the organs and structures within the female pelvis. These organs include the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina, and ovaries. The bladder has to be full for this scan. So try to drink some water before your appointment, as this will help speed up your bladder filling.

Abdominopelvic Scans

Here, you avoid food, as in the case of an abdominal scan, and drink water like you would for a pelvic scan. Please it is advised to take water, not soda, as the gas generated from drinking soda may make it difficult to see an area of concern clearly.

Prostate Scans

Prepare as you would for pelvic scans. You may need to urinate halfway through the scan. The person responsible for your scan will explain more in detail.

Transvaginal Scans

You will need to empty your bladder for this.

Breast Scans

Try to avoid rubbing creams and antiperspirants before this scan. Others Some do not require any special preparation.

Are Ultrasound Scans Painful?

While external and internal ultrasound scans are generally painless, you may experience mild discomfort as the probe is pressed on your body, or inserted into it. So you shouldn't be scared when preparing for ultrasound scans.

How Long Will the Scan Take?

When preparing for ultrasound scans, you may wonder how long it would take The length of your scans depends on a lot of factors. These include the type of scan, the reason for the scan, the pathologies found, the presence or absence of something searched for, how complicated your diagnosis, and more. Usually, however, most scans will be done in 30 minutes or less.

When Will My Results Be Ready?

Most ultrasound scans have their results ready within 30 minutes after the scan. Generally, the larger the area scanned, the longer you will wait for a detailed report.

What Next After the Scan?

Usually, the results are handed to you or sent directly to your doctor. You then go back to the doctor for your care to continue. However, there are a few things you should consider. Did you drink 3 litres of water to fill up your bladder when you were told to drink approximately 1 litre? Well, congratulations on getting ready fast. However, the body has to rid itself of all that fluid. So your best bet will be to stick around so you can use the restroom a few more times before setting out for home to avoid drama.

A Word From HealthCabal

Ultrasound scans are made possible by sound waves, and there are no known risks resulting from them. Unlike some other scans like CT scans, ultrasound scans do not expose you to radiation.  

If you are allergic to latex, inform the sonographer or doctor carrying out the scan. They might opt for a latex-free probe cover.


Hopkins Medicine - Abdominal Ultrasound

Hopkins Medicine - Pelvic Ultrasound

NHS UK - Ultrasound Scan

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