Ultrasound scan for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

Ultrasound scans use sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. You might have an ultrasound to look for changes in your lymph nodes (glands), liver or spleen. You also might have it to help find a vein for some central lines Open a glossary item

How you have an ultrasound scan

The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the microphone picks them up. The microphone links to a computer that turns the sound waves into a picture on the screen.

Diagram of an abdominal ultrasound

Ultrasound scans are completely painless. You usually have the scan in the hospital x-ray department by a sonographer. A sonographer is a trained professional who is specialised in ultrasound scanning.

Preparing for your scan

Your doctor or nurse gives you instructions on how to prepare for your scan. You might need to stop eating for 6 hours beforehand. Or they might ask you to drink plenty of water so that you have a full bladder for the scan.

Take your medicines as normal unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

What happens

Before the scan

When you arrive at the clinic a staff member might ask you to take off your upper clothing and put on a hospital gown. You lie on a couch for the test.

During the scan

The sonographer puts a cold lubricating gel on the skin over the area they are checking. Then they gently rub the handheld probe over your skin. The gel helps the probe to slide over your skin so that the sonographer gets clear pictures on the screen.

You might feel a little pressure when the sonographer moves the probe around. Tell them if this is uncomfortable.

An ultrasound scan can take up to 45 minutes. The sonographer might ask you to change position a few times, so they can get the clearest pictures.

You can have a family member or a friend with you while you have the scan.

Photograph of man having ultrasound

What happens afterwards

After the test you go back to the ward if you are an inpatient, or you can return home. You can eat and drink normally.

Possible risks

An ultrasound scan is a very safe procedure. It doesn’t involve radiation and there are usually no side effects.

Getting your results

Ask your doctor when to expect your results and how you will receive them. 

Waiting for test results can be a worrying time. You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can ask them for information. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

For support and information, you can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
14 Jun 2021
Next review due: 
14 Jun 2024
  • Oxford handbook of clinical medicine (10th edition)
    M Longmore, IB Wilkinson, A Baldwin and E Wallin
    Oxford University Press, 2017

  • Practical Ultrasound An Illustrated Guide (2nd Edition)
    J Alty and E Hoey
    CRC Press, 2014

  • Radiological Imaging in Hematological Malignancies
    A Guermazi (Editor)
    Springer, 2004

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