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What Is an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound scan is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create live images from the inside the body. Also called a sonogram or sonography, ultrasounds let doctors see the body’s soft tissues, which X-rays can’t do.

Ultrasound scans are safe and painless.

How Are Ultrasounds Done?

A technician (sonographer) spreads a clear, warm gel on the area to be scanned. Then, they use a small transducer (or wand) to send sound waves into the body. The sound waves move through the body until stopped by something, such as bone or fluid. Then they echo back. A computer measures how they echo back, and changes the sound waves into images to be analyzed.

Why Are Ultrasounds Done?

Doctors order ultrasounds to:

  • check a woman’s pregnancy (a prenatal ultrasound)
  • check for causes of pain and swelling, such as in the joints
  • see how well organs are working
  • look for kidney stones
  • check a lump, cyst, or tumor
  • check glands (such as the thyroid)
  • monitor blood flow

What Are the Types of Ultrasounds?

There are many different kinds of ultrasounds. Types of scans done on kids include:

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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