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.
The ultrasound scanner has a probe that gives off sound waves. The probe looks a bit like a microphone. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and the probe picks them up. The probe 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 might have it at one of the following:
- your GP surgery
- local community clinic
- in your hospital x-ray department
A specialist healthcare professional called a sonographer usually does the test.
Why you have it
Your doctor might use an ultrasound scan to look at your gallbladder. If there is a tumour, your doctor might also be able to tell whether the cancer has spread into the wall of the gallbladder.
How you have it
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.
External ultrasound scans
Preparing for your scan
Check your appointment letter for any instructions about how to prepare for your scan.
You might need to stop eating for 6 hours beforehand. Let the scan team know if this will be a problem for any reason, for example if you are diabetic.
They might ask you to drink plenty before your scan so that you have a comfortably full bladder.
Take your medicines as normal unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Before the scan
When you arrive at the clinic a member of staff might ask you to take off your clothing down to your underwear and put on a hospital gown. It will depend on what part of the body you're having scanned as to whether you have to undress or not.
During the scan
You lie on the couch next to the ultrasound machine. You might be able to sit up depending on which part of your body is being scanned.
The sonographer will spread a clear gel onto your skin over the area they are checking. The gel feels cold. It helps to transmit the sound waves to the microphone. The scan appears on a screen next to you.
You might feel a little pressure as the sonographer presses the microphone against your skin and moves it around the area being scanned. Tell them if this is uncomfortable.
An ultrasound scan can take up to 45 minutes depending on what's being scanned.
What happens afterwards
You can eat and drink normally after the test. You can go straight home or back to work afterwards.
An ultrasound scan is a very safe procedure. It doesn’t involve radiation and there are usually no side effects.
Getting your results
You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. The doctor may be able to let you know if they have seen any abnormal areas that have been sent to the laboratory.
Waiting for results can make you anxious. 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.
You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It can help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.