ultra sound

Houston Methodist’s board-certified radiologists perform ultrasounds, which use high-frequency sound waves to capture images of organs in the body, to help diagnose a range of conditions and monitor bodily functions. The parts of the body commonly evaluated with an ultrasound include the abdomen, breasts, female pelvis, prostate, scrotum, thyroid and parathyroid, and the vascular system. Ultrasounds provide images of the fetus during pregnancy as well. Ultrasonography, also called diagnostic sonography, is an ultrasound-based diagnostic imaging technique that captures images of organs as they function and assesses blood flow through various vessels. Our experienced imaging professionals have access to Houston Methodist’s high-quality, state-of-the-art technology to perform and accurately interpret ultrasounds. Ongoing communication and collaboration between physicians and radiologists is our priority and the key to ensuring your optimal care.

Ultrasound Procedures
During an ultrasound, the technician applies a gel-like substance to the area being examined and moves a handheld transducer back and forth across the area to send ultrasound waves. The sound from the transducer is reflected off structures inside the body, and the information from the sound is analyzed by a computer, which then creates a picture of the structure.

Ultrasound procedures are painless and take from 15 minutes to an hour. Depending on the type of ultrasound being performed, patients may be asked to fast up to eight hours prior to the procedure. In other cases, such as renal, pelvic and obstetric ultrasounds, they will be asked to drink 24 ounces of water 45 minutes prior to the procedure. After the exam, one of our board-certified radiologists will interpret the exam and send a report of the results to your physician.

Types of Ultrasounds
Different ultrasound techniques exist for different conditions.

  • Abdominal ultrasounds detect any abnormalities of the abdominal organs (kidneys, liver, pancreas, gallbladder), such as gallstones or tumors.
  • Aortic duplex exams measure the diameter of the aorta and blood flow in order to detect and monitor the growth of potentially life-threatening aortic aneurysms. This exam is also performed after endograft repair and to study the renal and mesenteric arteries.
  • Arteriography and venography are used to diagnose abnormalities in blood flow resulting from diseases of the circulatory system.
  • Breast ultrasounds examine a mass in the breast tissue.
  • Carotid ultrasounds detect blockages and abnormal blood flow to the brain using high-frequency sound waves.
  • Doppler ultrasounds see structures inside the body, while evaluating blood flow, and can determine if there are any problems within the veins and arteries.
  • Echocardiograms use ultrasound to create images of the heart and its valves and evaluate the effectiveness of the heart’s pumping ability.
  • Interventional ultrasounds help the radiologist during a minimally invasive procedure or biopsy.
  • Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) uses a specially designed catheter with a miniaturized ultrasound probe. Ultrasound technology enables the radiologist to see from inside blood vessels out through the surrounding blood column, visualizing the endothelium (inner wall) of blood vessels.
  • Musculoskeletal ultrasounds examine joints or muscles due to pain conditions, such as a tear.
  • Obstetrical ultrasounds monitor the development of the fetus.
  • Pelvic ultrasounds find the cause of pelvic pain, such as an ectopic pregnancy in women, or detect tumors or masses.
  • Peripheral vascular ultrasounds are non-invasive examinations that diagnose vascular conditions.
  • Prostate ultrasounds examine any nodules felt during a physical examination.
  • Renal ultrasounds examine the kidneys and urinary tract.
  • Scrotal ultrasounds can further investigate pain in the testicles.
  • Thyroid ultrasounds examine the thyroid and detect any abnormalities.
  • Transcranial Doppler (TCD) is an innovative combination of ultrasound and Doppler technologies used to detect blood flow within cranial blood vessels and identify conditions such as stenosis (narrowing); thrombosis (clots); embolisms; ruptures; and ischemia (lack of sufficient blood flow). It is also used to observe cranial blood flow in stroke patients.
  • Vascular ultrasounds see the vascular system and its function, including detection of blood clots.

Please read the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about ultrasounds for additional information on the procedure and what to expect.


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