What Is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, involves exposing part of the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Ultrasound exams do not use ionizing radiation (as used in X-rays). Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through blood vessels.

Ultrasound imaging is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

What Are Some Common Uses of the Procedure?
Ultrasound examinations can help to diagnose a variety of conditions and to assess organ damage following illness.

Ultrasounds are used to help physicians evaluate symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Hematuria (blood in urine)

Ultrasounds are a useful way of examining many of the body's internal organs, including but not limited to the:

  • Heart and blood vessels, including the abdominal aorta and its major branches
  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Kidneys
  • Bladder
  • Uterus, ovaries and unborn child (fetus) in pregnant patients
  • Eyes
  • Thyroid and parathyroid glands
  • Scrotum (testicles)
  • Brain in infants
  • Hips in infants

Ultrasounds are also used to:

  • Guide procedures such as needle biopsies, in which needles are used to extract sample cells from an abnormal area for laboratory testing.
  • Image the breasts and guide biopsy of breast cancer.
  • Diagnose a variety of heart conditions and assess damage after a heart attack or diagnose valvular heart disease.

Doppler ultrasounds, which use sound waves to see how blood flows through a blood vessel, can be used to evaluate:

  • Blockages to blood flow (such as clots)
  • Narrowing of vessels (which may be caused by plaque)
  • Tumors and congenital malformation

With knowledge about the speed and volume of blood flow gained from a Doppler ultrasound image, the physician can often determine whether a patient is a good candidate for a procedure such as angioplasty.

Ultrasound at Gwinnett Medical Center
Gwinnett Medical Center utilizes GE LOGIQ® 9 ultrasound scanners at all locations. The GE LOGIQ 9 Volume Ultrasound offers the most advanced technologies. These units are capable of high-definition three- and four-dimensional ultrasounds that can be viewed in any plane and in real-time modes, which was previously not possible with traditional ultrasound systems. With this new technology, beautiful images of fetuses are created, and fetal movements are identified. Images can be rotated to reveal details previously unseen in two-dimensional imaging.

Patient Benefits

  • Reduces need for ultrasound re-scans—volume ultrasound allows the physician to do virtual re-scans and navigate or manipulate the image view, even after the patient has gone home.
  • Patient-comfort features improve the patient experience, including gel warmers and an ergonomic design.
  • GE's transducers are designed with patient comfort in mind to reduce stress without compromising diagnostic capability.
  • Faster patient exams—up to 60% to 70%.

Preparing for an Ultrasound
You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Some scans will require that you do not eat or drink anything for as many as 12 hours prior to your exam. Other scans may require that you drink up to six glasses of water two hours before your exam without urinating to ensure a full bladder. Please ask your doctor if you have any prep instructions prior to coming in for your ultrasound.

What to Expect

  • After being positioned on an examination table, the ultrasound technician will apply a warm gel onto your skin over the area to be scanned.
  • He or she will then press the transducer—a small hand-held device—firmly against your body, moving it until the desired images are captured. You may feel slight discomfort or pressure at times as the transducer is pressed against your body.
  • As the exam takes place, you will be able to see the images on a screen that looks somewhat like a television or computer screen.
  • The exam will most likely take less than 30 minutes.

Ultrasound Services

  • Abdominal
  • Thyroid
  • Breast
  • Thyroid biopsy
  • Gynecological
  • Transabdominal
  • Neonatal
  • Transvaginal
  • Obstetrical
  • Ultrasound-guided biopsies
  • Paracentesis
  • Urology
  • Pelvic
  • Vascular
  • Renal doppler studies
  • Neck lymph node evaluation
  • Testicular
  • Biopsy
  • Thoracentesis

Finding Out the Results
The radiologist analyzes the images and sends a report of the diagnosis to your referring doctor, who will then discuss the results of the ultrasound examination with you.

Gwinnett Medical Center Imaging has three convenient Atlanta-area locations in Lawrenceville, Duluth or Hamilton Mill. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call 678-312-3444.