Ultrasound is a simple, safe, painless diagnostic procedure that bounces high-frequency sound waves off parts of the body and captures the returning “echoes” as images. Harrison County Community Hospital offers a full realm of ultrasound services including pelvic, carotid doppler, testicular, thyroid, abdominal, thoracentesis, paracentesis, and vascular/doppler.
Ultrasound Diagnostic Procedures
During an ultrasound examination, a patient will typically be positioned on their back. The area of the body being examined will be exposed and a warm gel will be applied. A transducer is then placed firmly against the skin, in the gel, and moved back and forth, receiving echoes/images. Some ultrasound exams require a cylindrical transducer to be inserted into the vagina in order to view the anatomy located in the pelvis.
Sometimes, a special application of ultrasound, called Doppler ultrasound, is used. Doppler ultrasound measures the direction and speed of blood cells as they move through arteries and veins.
Doppler Ultrasound can be used to:
- Look for clots in the veins of the arms and legs
- Evaluate the veins and arteries of the liver and spleen
- Evaluate the blood flow of the arms and legs
- Evaluate the arteries supplying blood flow to the bowel
Throacentesis ultrasound is a procedure utilized in removing fluid when present in the area around the lungs. Patients anticipating this exam can anticipate being asked to assume a sitting position to best allow the physician to remove the fluid. Fluid is removed by needle, but typically, patients experience minimal discomfort. Your physician will examine the fluid drained from your chest and will advise of your pathology report within a few days.
An echocardiogram is a test using sound waves to create moving images of the heart. The images are more detailed than a plain x-ray and involve zero exposure to radiation. Echocardiograms are used in the detection of abnormalities of the heart’s chambers and valves, murmurs, fluids surrounding the heart, and ventricle wall motion. At HCCH, a trained sonographer uses a transducer to send and receive sound waves which will form images to be evaluated by a cardiologist.
Stress Echocardiogram (Stress Echo)
A stress echo consists of an echocardiogram before and after a vigorous exercise regimen. It combines the ultrasound study of the heart, with a stress test, becoming especially useful in the diagnosis of coronary heart disease and the presence of blockages in the coronary arteries (the vessels supplying blood to your heart).
Dobutamine Stress Echocardiogram
A Dobutamine Stress Echo can be used to visualize the heart in motion, particularly on patients who are unable to exercise. Medication is used to increase the heart rate, thus simulating the effects of exercise in order to successfully examine the wall motion of the heart both at rest and while beating faster.
Nuclear Stress Testing
Nuclear stress testing is another way of examining the heart under stress to determine how well the heart and body are working as the heart beats faster. The patient is given an injection containing a small amount of radiation so that blood supply can be easily observed using a nuclear scanning camera. This procedure shows doctors to compare how much blood flows through the heart muscle at rest versus while stressed.
An EKG is used to record the electrical activity of the heart. It can tell your doctor if you are currently having a heart attack or have had on in the past. It can display the rate at which your heart is beating, show regular and irregular beats, indicate size and configuration of the heart, and possibly advise of any birth defects of the heart. Patients undergoing an EKG can anticipate electrode patches being placed on the bare skin of the arms, chest, and legs. The electrodes are then connected to a machine which records the heart’s electrical activity for the duration of the test.
Similar to an EKG, a Holter monitor is used to monitor and record the electrical activity of the heart. Unlike an EKG, a Holter is a small portable device to be worn for a 24-hour period while the patient goes about his or her daily activities. Electrodes connected to the monitor provide continuous data which later will be evaluated by a physician.
An abdominal ultrasound is performed when physicians wish to examine the organs inside the abdominal cavity, including the spleen, liver, gall bladder, stomach, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine, appendix, and bladder.
Reasons for an abdominal ultrasound at HCCH typically include abdominal pain, repeated vomiting, abnormal liver or kidney function, a swollen stomach, and can help evaluate injuries to, or diseases of, the abdominal organs. Frequently, appendicitis, pyloric stenosis, kidney or gall bladder stones, abdominal masses, or abdominal fluids require an abdominal ultrasound. Abdominal ultrasounds can also be used to guide procedures, helping to ensure accurate placement of a needle or catheter.
If you are anticipating an abdominal exam, including orders for any abdominal vessels or organs, plan to be NPO after midnight (at least eight hours of fasting) prior to the examination. This means nothing to eat or drink as well as no smoking or chewing gum. (Smoking and gum chewing increases stomach activity as well as swallowing. This in turn increases gas in the GI tract, thus interfering with the examination.)
You should not have barium studies or endoscopy studies within 24-hours prior to your ultrasound. Recent IV contrast, such as contrast used for CT scans, may result in increased bowl gas adversely affecting the study.
Medications that must be taken prior to your exam should be taken with as little water as is necessary.
Diabetic patients should consult their physician concerning their medication and fasting.
At HCCH, a pelvic ultrasound may be ordered for diagnosis and treatment of the pelvic and vaginal areas. In women, pelvic ultrasound is most often performed to evaluate the bladder, ovaries, uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. In men, pelvic ultrasound is used to evaluate the bladder, seminal vesicles, and prostate. Pelvic ultrasound can also help identify kidney stones, bladder tumors, and other disorders of the urinary bladder.
During a pelvic ultrasound examination, it is necessary for the patient to have a full bladder in order to distend the urinary bladder to displace small bowel and gas from the field of view. Plan to drink 32 ounces of fluids (carbonated beverages should be avoided) so that your bladder is full at the time of your exam. If your bladder is not full, you may be asked to return to the patient waiting area and drink more liquids.
For endovaginal sonograms, the urinary bladder should be empty.
Other Ultrasound Exams
In preparing for most other exam types, just be sure to wear clothing appropriate for the exam you are having. For example, wearing a turtleneck sweater when having an ultrasound on your neck (thyroid, carotid, etc.) will make the exam difficult to perform.
For more information regarding ultrasound services at Harrison County Community Hospital, please contact us.