Ultrasound (also called ultrasonography or sonography) scans use sound waves to take pictures of organs inside the body. A special wand called a transducer gives off high-frequency sound (inaudible to the human ear) and then records the echoes as the sound waves bounce back. This information shows the size, shape and consistency of soft tissues and organs as a live image on a computer screen.

We might recommend an ultrasound to:

  • Diagnose conditions, such as those affecting the heart, blood vessels and organs
  • Help see inside the body during medical procedures
  • Detect and treat soft-tissue injuries

Ultrasound Safety

Ultrasound scans are painless and free of radiation.

Before the Exam

Preparing at Home 

To help children prepare for imaging scans, practice lying still with them for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. We also recommend that parents help children practice holding their breath for short periods. We sometimes ask patients to hold their breath briefly while we take certain pictures. 

Eating and Drinking 

For some ultrasounds, the patient needs to have nothing to eat or drink for a period of time—usually 4 to 8 hours—before the test. This includes having no tube feedings.

For certain other ultrasounds, the patient needs to drink up to 32 ounces of water before the test to fill the bladder.

When the ultrasound is scheduled, we’ll tell you if either of these preparations is necessary.

Using Positive Distraction and Sedation Medicine 

We help our patients relax by creating a soothing environment. We offer positive-distraction technology, which uses lighting, music and videos to help patients relax during procedures and tests.

Some patients are unable to remain still for long periods of time. Others experience pain or anxiety during imaging scans. Some patients require sedation for imaging tests. Talk to your health care provider if you think this will be necessary.

During the Exam

Getting Into Position

A sonographer helps the patient get into position on the bed next to the ultrasound machine. The sonographer puts warm gel on the patient’s skin and/or on a special wand called a transducer.

The Scan 

The sonographer moves the wand over the parts of the body that need testing. For certain images, the sonographer helps patients change position and asks them to hold their breath. As the wand touches the body, images show up immediately on the computer monitor. An ultrasound test can last between 15 and 45 minutes, depending on the type of ultrasound.

Parent/Caregiver Role 

Parents can reassure children by talking to them, holding their hands, and distracting them with familiar stories or thinking games (spelling, addition, etc.).

After the Exam

Receiving the Results 

A specially trained pediatric radiologist interprets the ultrasound. We send the results to the health care provider who ordered the scan—usually within 48 hours. If the results are urgent, we contact that health care provider immediately.

The health care provider who ordered the scan discusses the ultrasound results with the patient and the patient’s family. To receive the test results, contact that health care provider.

More Information

For more information about imaging tests at Gillette, please call the Advanced Imaging Center at 651-229-3995.

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your health care providers. If you have any questions, talk with your doctor or others on your health care team.