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Neck ultrasound

Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. The ultrasound scanner has a microphone that gives off sound waves. The sound waves bounce off the organs inside your body, and are picked up again by the microphone. The microphone links to a computer. This turns the sound waves into a picture.

You normally have this test as an outpatient procedure in the imaging department of the hospital by a sonographer. A sonographer is a trained professional who is specialised in ultrasound scanning.

Why you have it

You have this scan to look at your neck and salivary glands.

You might have the ultrasound at the same time as having a fine needle aspiration (FNA). During a FNA, a doctor takes a sample of cells to look at under a microscope to help find out what is causing your symptoms.

Preparing for your scan

Check your appointment letter to find out how to prepare. 

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

Before the scan

When you arrive at the department, a nurse asks you to change into a gown. Then they take you to the test room.

Having the scan

The sonographer puts a cold lubricating gel over the area. Then they put the ultrasound probe against your skin. You might feel a little pressure when the sonographer moves the probe over your neck. Tell them if it is uncomfortable. It shouldn’t hurt.

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

You can have a family member or friend with you while you have the scan. Just let the sonographer know that someone will be with you.

What happens afterwards

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

Getting your results

You should get your results within 1 or 2 weeks. Contact your doctor if you haven’t heard anything after this time.

Waiting for test results or for further tests can be very worrying. You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. 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, from Monday to Friday.

Possible risks

Ultrasound scans are a very safe procedure. It doesn’t involve radiation and there are usually no side effects.

Last reviewed: 
16 Oct 2019
  • Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Management Guidelines 
    ENT UK, 4th Edition, September 2011

  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th Edition)
    L Dougherty and S Lister
    Wiley-Black, 2015

  • Management of Salivary Gland Tumours: United Kingdom National Multidisciplinary Guidelines

    S Sood and others

    The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 2016. Volume 130, Supplement 2

     

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