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An ultrasound produces images of internal structures, such as organs and blood vessels, that can be viewed on a computer screen in real time. It is used to detect tumors in the body, possible blockages in blood flow, certain heart conditions, to guide needles during biopsy, as well as to detect other conditions, such as swelling and infection.

Preparing for an ultrasound

Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, and remove any jewelry on or around the area being scanned, including body piercings. Depending on the type of scan you are having, there may be special instructions you need to follow prior to the exam, such as not eating or drinking. Your healthcare provider will give you those instructions when your exam is scheduled.

What to expect during an ultrasound

The technologist will help position you on the examination table. A gel will be applied to the area being scanned to help a wand glide easily over the skin. The technologist will then move the wand over the area of interest, while images of the internal structures are viewed on a computer screen.

Ultrasound exams typically last between 20-30 minutes. If a biopsy is performed, it may take a little longer. Ultrasounds are usually painless; however, sometimes discomfort can occur from the pressure being applied to the area. Once the ultrasound is completed, the gel is wiped off and you can return to normal activity.