Ultrasound scan of the eye

An ultrasound scan is a procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the inside of your body. You may have this scan to diagnose eye cancer.

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.

Ultrasound scans aren't painful but can cause some discomfort. You usually have them in the hospital x-ray department by a sonographer. 

Ultrasound scan of the eye

Before the scan

You do not usually have any special preparation before this test. You lie on a couch in a comfortable position and keep your head as still as possible. Do let your sonographer know if this difficult for you. 

During the scan

An eye ultrasound scan uses a small instrument called a probe. The sonographer puts clear gel over your closed eyelids and moves the probe gently over them.

Sometimes the sonographer puts the probe directly over the surface of your eyes (the conjunctiva). For this you may have local anaesthetic drops put into your eyes. The drops can sting a bit when they first go, so you may have some discomfort for a few minutes.

What happens afterwards

The anaesthetic drops can cause blurred vision for a few hours, so you shouldn't drive yourself home.

You can eat and drink normally after the test. You can go straight home or back to work afterwards.

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

You may have to wait to get the results. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

Waiting for results can make you anxious. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You might have contact details for a specialist nurse. You can contact them for information if you need to.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses for support on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Last reviewed: 
23 Sep 2021
Next review due: 
23 Sep 2024
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