Ultrasound scanning is a diagnostic tool used to examine many different parts of the body including the liver, pelvic organs, kidneys and gallbladder.

It’s also very useful in identifying musculoskeletal injuries in joints such as the shoulder, knee and ankle and it can be used to examine blood flow and to check for any thin or blocked blood vessels. 

It’s been in widespread use for many years and there are no known risks.

Images are generated using high frequency sound waves. The sonographer moves a small hand-held sensor over your skin and the images are displayed on a screen.

Having an ultrasound

If you have never had an Ultrasound scan, you might not know what to expect and this brief guide is designed to answer the questions that might be in your mind.

Important things to tell us

It’s important that you tell us before the scan:

  • if you have had an ultrasound scan within the previous six months or
  • if you are diabetic.

Before you arrive

  • You might need to prepare for the scan in which case your appointment letter will make it clear what we want you to do. Some examples include if your pelvis, kidneys or bladder are to be scanned, you’ll need to make sure that your bladder is full, or if your gall bladder or pancreas are being scanned, we might ask you not to eat or drink for a number of hours before the scan.
  • Please let us know if you have any disabilities so that we can ensure we are able to offer you the highest quality service.
  • Please confirm your appointment by phone 24 hours before your scan and arrive in plenty of time.
  • You’re welcome to bring a friend or a relative with you and they can accompany you while you’re having the scan.
  • Don’t forget to bring your appointment letter with you.

Preparation for the ultrasound

  • Once you’ve checked in at reception, a sonographer, the medical professional who operates the ultrasound equipment, will meet you, explain the procedure and go through your safety questionnaire with you. You’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions about the ultrasound. Please do remember not to go to the toilet if we’ve told you that you need a full bladder. If you start to feel uncomfortable, please let a member of staff know.
  • We might ask you to change into a hospital gown. We’ll provide somewhere to store your personal possessions.

During the ultrasound

  • Throughout the procedure you will be looked after by the sonographer who will explain what’s happening, examine the displayed images and prepare a report.
  • Ultrasound scans often require the sonographer to access intimate parts of your body. For that reason it’s routine for a chaperone of your sex to be present during the procedure. If one isn’t present, you’re most welcome to ask for one.
  • You won’t need an injection.
  • We'll ask you to lie down on a bed and we'll dim the lights so that we can see the pictures on the screen more clearly.
  • A cool, water-based gel will be placed on the skin over the area that’s going to be scanned. This will help the sensor slide easily over your skin.
  • We'll ask you to lie in a position that's suitable for your scan and help you into the correct position if you need us to.
  • We may ask you to breathe deeply and hold your breath for a few seconds.
  • If your bladder isn't full enough, we may ask you to drink more liquid.
  • Ultrasound scans don't cause any pain but you might have an uncomfortably full bladder. If this becomes a problem for you, just tell the sonographer.
  • If you're having an ultrasound scan because you've got pain in the abdomen or pelvis, we might need to apply a little pressure on the skin over the area affected and this might cause you slight discomfort during the scan.
  • The scan can take up to 30 minutes unless your bladder isn’t full enough and we have to wait for it to fill sufficiently.

After the ultrasound

  • There are no restrictions on normal activity. You can eat and drink normally, drive and return to work immediately after the ultrasound.
  • We'll send the images and report to your doctor or consultant.
  • For ethical and professional reasons, we cannot discuss results with you. Only your doctor or consultant can do this.

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Alliance Medical are Europe’s leading independent provider of medical imaging services. 

We combine service excellence and innovative imaging technologies to improve patient care and support NHS and independent sector organisations with their ongoing imaging requirements. Our approach has delivered consistent company growth for more than 25 years.


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Carrying out over 2 million scans per year, we set our standards high when it comes to our people and their careers. Investment in integrated systems and individual expertise allows the development of services and long term partnerships to be forged which has seen us grow to be the imaging healthcare provider of choice for patients, referrers and employees.
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Alliance Medical is Europe’s leading diagnostic and molecular imaging services provider delivering high quality diagnostic solutions in partnership with public organisations.  

We form an effective part of the health economy in each of the countries in which we operate and see our role as supporting the existing healthcare infrastructure, providing innovative partnership solutions to address local challenges in a way that builds on the strengths of existing core services.

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