When we think of ultrasound scans, the first thing that generally springs to mind is scans within pregnancy. Many of us have experienced a prenatal scan ourselves, if not, we have certainly seen the treasured black and white images that capture a baby’s first picture in the womb.
The ‘twelve-week ultrasound scan’ is a much-anticipated part of pregnancy. Aside from the excitement of actually seeing the unborn baby for the first time, this is the stage when an accurate due date can be determined and initial checks that the baby is developing properly can be made.
If we actually stop and think about it, this is a pretty phenomenal thing that medical technology allows us to do, not least with the introduction of 3D and even 4D scans. Before the use of ultrasound, fetal defects and complications often went undetected, putting both the mother and baby’s lives at risk.
Medical ultrasound - One machine, many uses
Pregnancy is just one area where an ultrasound scan is invaluable, it is also used to detect heart problems, examine the liver, kidneys, gall bladder and abdomen. Medical Ultrasound is a quick and effective aid to the examination process and can give the doctor and the patient an instant idea of the extent of the problem. For example, when looking at an abnormal lump in the breast, ovary or testicle it can quickly determine whether it is a solid tumour or a fluid-filled cyst.
Surgeons regularly rely on ultrasound scans to help them when performing biopsies, giving them an ‘extra eye’ and a more thorough view of the procedure. All in all, it is an amazing addition to the medical process, allowing complications to be detected when it is still early enough to do something about it.
What should I expect from my private ultrasound scan?
In the majority of cases, having an ultrasound scan is a relatively quick and simple procedure, it is also pain-free and completely safe. Before placing the probe on your body, the sonographer will begin the process by applying a special water-based gel to the area to be examined. This gel enables the sound waves to travel from the probe and through the skin to the internal area to be examined. The probe is then moved over the area, picking up the image of the internal view on a computer screen.
Sometimes it is necessary to obtain a clearer picture by using an internal probe, which is either swallowed or inserted into the vagina or rectum. Again, this gives consultants a much clearer picture of any potential problems, obtaining a much more thorough examination than could otherwise be achieved.
If you have a private ultrasound scan scheduled in and are nervous about the procedure, speak to the sonographer, nurse or consultant who will be able to put you at ease.