Ultrasound is a test that uses reflected sound waves to produce an image of organs and other structures in the body. It does not use X-rays or other types of possibly harmful radiation.
For ultrasound testing, gel or oil is applied to the skin to help transmit the sound waves. A small, handheld instrument called a transducer is passed back and forth over the area of the body that is being examined. The transducer sends out high-pitched sound waves (above the range of human hearing) that are reflected back to the transducer. A computer analyzes the reflected sound waves and converts them into a picture that is displayed on a TV screen. The picture produced by ultrasound is called a sonogram, echogram, or ultrasound scan. Pictures or videos of the ultrasound images may be made for a permanent record.
Ultrasound is most useful for looking at organs and structures that are either uniform and solid (such as the liver) or fluid-filled (such as the gallbladder). Mineralized structures (such as bones) or air-filled organs (such as the lungs) do not show up well on a sonogram.