Ultrasound is a high frequency sound that cannot be heard by humans, but which is emitted and detected by ultrasound machines. The machine detects the sound wave and procedures pictures – called ultrasound images.

Ultrasound travels freely through fluid and soft tissues, but is reflected back as ‘echoes’ when it hits a more solid (dense) surface. For example, ultrasound waves will travel freely through fluid and will be reflected back to the ultrasound probe, such that ultrasound images are electronically computed for that particular organ or structure.

Thyroid ultrasound is used for diagnosing suspected thyroid disease.  Most ultrasound examinations are performed to look at palpable or visible ‘lumps’, or enlargement of the gland found during a clinical examination.  The ultrasound can establish if the nodule is inside or outside the thyroid gland and whether it is a cyst or soft tissue nodule.  Cysts are almost always non-cancerous (benign),  although in some cases the fluid may be taken out by a needle, under ultrasound guidance, for additional testing.

Testicular ultrasound is an imaging technique used for the diagnosis of suspected abnormalities of the scrotum.  It is the primary imaging method used to evaluate problems of the testicles and surrounding tissues.  It is used when patients feel a lump in the scrotum .  Other indications for ultrasound scan include an absent or undescended testicle, inflammation, testicular torsion (twisted testes), fluid collection, abnormal blood vessels (varicocele) or a mass (lump or tumour).

Transvaginal ultrasound is a very intimate examination carried out in women suspected of having abnormalities in the uterus or ovaries.  It is used to look for uterine fibroids, endometrial abnormalities, mass lesions and cysts in the ovaries, fluids and collections in the pelvis as a result of pelvic infections, and it is particularly useful in diagnosing polycystic ovaries as party of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).  This examination is carried out by a Consultant Radiologist.

In addition to other parts of the body, ultrasound is used to examine the heart and this procedure may be performed by cardiologists. Radiologists, or specially trained cardiac ultrasound.

You lie on a couch and an operator (usually a Consultant Radiologist), applies a lubricating gel on the part of the body to be examined.  A probe is then placed on your skin over the part of your body to be examined.  The lubricating jelly is designed to allow sound waves to pass through your body by making good probe and skin contact.  The probe is connected by a wire to be ultrasound machine.

Pulses of ultrasound are sent from the probe through the skin into your body.  The ultrasound waves bounce echoes back from various parts of the body which are registered by the machine.  The machine displays the pictures, on a TV like monitor so that the operator and you can see the images of your organs, blood vessels and fluids in your body.

  1. Musculoskeletal Ultrasound
    Examination includes: soft tissue scanning to look for injuries to muscles & tendons, shoulder, wrist, Achilles tendon and its attachment to bone. It is a recognised examination tool for some knee injuries or problems.
  2. Upper Abdominal ultrasound
    Examination includes: liver, gall bladder, bile duct, pancreas, kidneys, spleen, abdominal aorta & para-aortic regions.
  3. Urinary Tract Renal ultrasound
    Examinations include: kidneys, urinary bladder (pre and post micturition assessment to look for urinary residue.
  4. Vascular ultrasound
    Examinations include: carotid arteries (including carotid artery intimal thickness) and venous studies (to look for venous thrombosis).
  5. Scrotal ultrasound
    The examination looks for tumours within or outside the testes, abnormal collection of veins, hernias and fluids in the scrotum.
  6. Pelvis
  7. Thyroid

The scan test is painless and takes about 15-30 minutes, depending on which part of the body is being examined. Ultrasound scans to detect clots (or DVT’s) in the deep veins of the leg may take up to 30 minutes.

An ultrasound test is a diagnostic tool which supports patient’s clinical management.  An Ultrasound test is also carried out in preventative health screening, predominantly to look for blood flows through the carotid artery.  The screening of the carotid arteries wall may detect narrowing and plaques in the blood vessels if present.  An ultrasound can detect aneurysm of the abdominal aorta.

Preparation for each scan depends on the clinical problem that needs to be solved.  For upper abdominal scans such as liver, gall bladder, and pancreatic scans you will be told not to eat any meals for at least 6 hours before the scan or overnight.    For Adult pelvic and urinary balder scans, you will be instructed to drink fluids to fill up your bladder up to a point where you are just a little uncomfortable, but not bursting.  You will also be advised to avoid fizzy drinks for both upper abdominal and pelvic scans.  You will be advised to keep urine in your bladder and not to empty it until after your examination.  For a transvaginal ultrasound , you do not need any preparation.

It is preferred to wear loose fitting clothing. Different examinations require different preparations, the staff will give you the relevant instructions as to what to do.

Ultrasound scans are painless and safe, unlike x-rays, CT’s and nuclear medicine examinations, ultrasound does not use radiation. It has not found to cause any problems or complications within the medical diagnostic range.

  • It is non-invasive
  • It can be used safely during pregnancy
  • Ultrasound can visualise movement and function

Ultrasound has difficulty in penetrating bone and air. It can only see the outer surface of the bone and organs filled with gas, such as bowel and stomach.

  • Provision of ultrasound services within the primary health care environment, Which is the familiar and comfortable environment for the patient.
  • The ultrasound service within the primary health care setting. Will be consultant- led and delivered.
  • Ultrasound examinations will therefore be performed and reported by Consultant Radiologists.
  • Minimal or no waiting time.
  • Scans will be reported and dispatched to the GP within 2-3 working days.
  • Promotes the desirable very close liaison between the GP and Consultant Radiologist,in the interest of patient care. When urgent or significant pathologic findings are detected during ultrasound examinations, these will be communicated and fully discussed with the GP as quickly as possible.
  • A normal scan will be reassuring for a patient and the GPs or will prompt other evaluations as may be appropriate. Early diagnosis of pathologic lesions, which will improve early detection and treatment of various illness including cancer. Ultrasound imaging does not utilize radiation. It is relatively cheap service to provide and can be used in all age groups.

The examination is carried out by radiologists who are all highly qualified & very experienced