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Ultrasound, also called sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves that bounce off tissues to create an image of the inside of the body. No radiation is used and ultrasound is widely available, easy to use and relatively inexpensive. There is no known risk.
An ultrasound is fast (less than 30 minutes), painless and non-invasive.
The device includes a fixed console with a video display screen and a hand-held transducer, about the size of a bar of soap, which is held against the skin and picks up the radio waves. The image is visible immediately on the computer screen and can sometimes be seen by the patient.
Ultrasound is useful in imaging the heart, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and bladder. It is also used to monitor the growth and well being of a fetus. Because it provides real-time images, it can be used as a guide for needle biopsies and other minimally invasive tests. Results are usually available from your physician's office within a few days.