About ultrasound scans
What is an ultrasound scan?
It is a non-invasive ultrasound exam. It is the ideal first-level exam for certain parts of the body, such as the abdomen or the thyroid, but also the heart and blood vessels, as it provides lots of information with almost no side effects.
How is it performed?
It is performed with the aid of an ultrasound transducer placed on the interested part; during lower abdominal ultrasounds, it would be better having a full bladder.
When is it performed? Is it a painful exam?
The ultrasound scan is a completely painless exam (it can cause slight discomfort at most) and without side effects.
What is an ultrasound scan used for?
The exam may have multiple purposes, for example: identifying conditions related to the anatomy/function of the organs (liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, female internal genitalia, prostate, male external genitalia, but also thyroid, joints, and in specific areas, the heart and arteries and veins), identifying anatomical conditions at degenerative or oncological risk, monitoring pre-surgery conditions (e.g. kidney or gallbladder stones, valvular heart disease, venous insufficiency of the limbs), monitoring patients who undergo medical/surgical therapies.
What are the exam limits?
Ultrasound scans have limits: first of all, the acoustic window (region upon which the ultrasound transducer is placed to assess the underlying organs) varies from person to person, depending on their health, previous surgeries, large quantities of air (e.g. intestinal bloating). The accuracy of an ultrasound scan, even if performed under the best operating conditions, is not absolute (that is, there are false negative and false positive cases) and, it sometimes requires further investigations with other methods (second level examinations).
Can further investigations be necessary after the exam?
At the doctor’s discretion, the scan could be repeated after some time, in order to evaluate the evolution of the aspects noted, or completed with other diagnostic imaging techniques (CT scan, MRI…).