What can Ultrasound do?
Ultrasound is very good at discerning cystic (fluid-filled) structures from solid structures within the body. It is a great tool for targeted examinations, and because of its relatively low cost, it is also a wonderful first line of testing. Ultrasound can look at solid internal organs (pancreas, spleen, liver), reproductive organs, thyroid, unborn babies, arteries and veins, and can even image the skin and muscles on the arms and legs. Ultrasound is also used as a guidance tool: the technologist can show the doctor the exact location of an organ for biopsy with a needle.
Why do I need to drink water before some exams?
When a patient needs to have their bladder, kidneys, unborn baby, and/or female reproductive system imaged, the patient must drink water, at least one hour prior to the examination, to fill the bladder. The bladder works as an “acoustic window”, which means it helps the sound waves get to the organ(s) that need to be imaged. Plus by having a full bladder, the intestines that usually live between the pelvic organs and the bladder are moved out of the way so the technologist has a clearer view. By filling the bladder, the doctor can also assess the bladder wall for irregularities, and watch to confirm that the kidneys are draining properly into the bladder.
Often, when scanning unborn babies, the baby’s head is very low in the mother’s pelvis. By filling the bladder, the baby’s head gets moved out of the mother’s lower pelvis, thus allowing the baby’s brain and skull to be imaged better.