An ultrasound (sometimes called a sonogram) is a type of procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of your body. An ultrasound scan can be used to monitor an unborn baby, help in the diagnosis of a condition, or guide a surgeon during specific procedures. Dissimilar to other imaging techniques, ultrasound uses no radiation. For this reason, it is the favoured process for viewing a developing foetus during pregnancy. These scans are safe because they use sound waves or echoes to create an image, instead of radiation.
Private ultrasound scans are available at One Ashford Hospital in Kent and One Hatfield Hospital in Hertfordshire, making our hospitals ideally located for patients living in Ashford, Canterbury, Maidstone, Dover and throughout the Kent area, as well as Hatfield, St Albans, Stevenage, Harpenden, Hemel Hempstead, Watford, and throughout Hertfordshire.
Why are they Performed?
Ultrasound scans are typically associated with pregnancy, used to evaluate foetal development and provide a pregnant woman with the first view of her unborn child. However, the test may also be used for many other reasons, including:
- Diagnosing gallbladder disease
- Analyse blood flow
- Help perform certain biopsies
- Assess a breast lump
- Inspect your thyroid gland
- Discover genital and prostate complications
- Evaluate joint inflammation (synovitis)
- Assess metabolic bone disease
Your doctor may suggest an ultrasound if you are experiencing pain, swelling, or other symptoms that require an internal assessment of your organs. The scan can provide a view of your organs such as kidneys, ovaries, gallbladder, liver and many more.
How are they Performed?
The scan can take anything from 5-60 minutes, depending on why you are having one done. It is usually painless but you may experience mild discomfort as the sensor is pressed against you, especially if you are required to have a full bladder or the area is tender, or inserted into your body.
A small medical tool called an ultrasound probe, which gives off high-frequency sound waves, is used. The sound waves bounce off different parts of the body, which creates echoes that are then picked up and turned into an image that is displayed on a monitor. There are different types of ultrasound scans, depending on the part of the body that is being scanned and why. The 3 main types are external, internal and endoscopic.
External Ultrasound Scan
An external sonogram scan is commonly used to observe your heart or an unborn baby. It can also be used to examine organs in the tummy and pelvis, as well as other organs or tissues that can be assessed through the skin, such as joints and muscles. The radiographer will put gel on the skin of the area they are going to examine to allow the sensor to slide easily and create clearer images. The gel used in this technique is easy to remove from skin and clothing.
Internal Ultrasound Scan
An internal examination allows the doctor to observe the body and organs such as the prostate gland, ovaries and womb in more detail. A transvaginal ultrasound means through the vagina.
A special transducer is gently inserted into the vagina to get a quick look at the uterus, womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. If you are undergoing a transvaginal sonogram, you will be asked to lay on your back and raise your knees to allow your doctor to insert an ultrasound probe in to your vagina or rectum. Internal examinations may cause some discomfort but should not take very long and are rarely painful.
Endoscopic Ultrasound Scan
An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a minimally invasive technique used to examine gastrointestinal (digestive) and lung diseases. During the procedure, a probe attached to a long, flexible tube (an endoscope) is passed through your body, usually through the mouth, to produce images of the lining and walls of your digestive tract, chest and organs such as the pancreas and liver. You may be given a sedative and local anaesthetic to keep you calm and numb your throat to ease any discomfort during the process.
Alternatives to ultrasound depend on the reason you are having it, what past of the body is being assessed and your individual requirements. Alternatives to an ultrasound could include a CT scan, an MRI scan or an X-ray.
Typically, following the scan there are no after-effects and you can return to normal activities immediately. If you received a sedative to help you relax, you may need to remain in hospital following the procedure until the effects of the medication have worn off, and you will need to arrange for travel home from the hospital and someone to stay with you for the first 24 hours.
In most cases following the procedure, the radiographer may arrange for your results to be sent to your doctor who will review the images and check for abnormalities. They will then go through them with you a few days later. Should they find anything irregular from the ultrasound you may need to go through further diagnostic techniques such as a CT scan or MRI. If your doctor is able to make a full diagnosis based on the results from the sonogram you may begin treatment immediately, if required.
Risks and Complications
An ultrasound scan is a safe, non-invasive procedure that does not involve exposure to radiation and uses low-power sound waves, which have no known risks. External and internal sonograms usually do not have any side effects and are typically painless, although you may experience some discomfort as the probe is pressed over the affected area or inserted into your body. If you are allergic to latex, you should inform your doctor so they do not use a latex-covered probe during an internal examination.
Endoscopic sonograms are sometimes more uncomfortable and may result in temporary complications such as bleeding, sore throat or infection, or more serious complications such as internal bleeding or tearing of the intestinal wall or throat. Contact your doctor if you are worried about any symptoms following the procedure.
You can use your private medical insurance or pay for your Ultrasound treatment. We offer competitive, fixed price packages as well as the ability to spread your cost with the option of 0% finance. If you are using your health insurance, please contact your insurer first for approval and let them know you’d like to be treated at either the One Ashford Hospital or One Hatfield Hospital.
Why One Healthcare
- Modern purpose-built hospital opened in March 2016 (Ashford) December 2017 (Hatfield)
- Fast access to diagnostics including MRI, Xray and Ultrasound
- Private, spacious, en-suite rooms
- Specialist Physiotherapy and nursing teams
- Little or no waiting time
- ‘Ultra clean air’ theatres
- Freshly prepared food
- Calm, dignified experience