Ultrasound is a procedure that uses high-frequency, inaudible sound waves that penetrate the body and "echo" off the internal organs to produce high-resolution images. This is very similar to the sonar technology used by submarines. The returning "echoes" are processed by a computer to produce high-resolution detailed images in real-time — a feature that is useful for visualizing movement and intricate details in tissues, organs and blood vessels.
Ultrasound is a non-invasive process — which means it does not penetrate the skin or body openings — and is used to safely examine many parts of the body, such as the kidneys, liver and spleen, pancreas, thyroid, brain, female pelvis, heart, and hips. Special techniques have been developed to detect and examine blood flow in the arteries and veins. Ultrasound can also be used to guide minimally invasive procedures such as needle biopsies.
Perhaps the best-known use of ultrasound is to evaluate the condition of a fetus, providing expectant parents with their first baby picture. The simple procedure is painless. A specially-trained technologist applies a jelly to the skin on the area to be studied and moves a wand, or transducer, over it. Sound waves reflect back to the transducer and the image is displayed on a monitor. A picture can be printed from the screen or stored electronically in our computer system.
Because ultrasound uses sound waves and not radiation, there is no danger of prolonged exposure. Ultrasound imaging can be performed safely on any patient, even on pregnant women and small children.
The ultrasound technologists at Main Line Health Imaging have additional certification in all areas of ultrasound such as vascular and abdominal imaging. While a radiologist may not be present during the study, the ultrasound study is supervised and reviewed by a radiologist, often during the examination. In addition, our radiologists are connected over our system-wide computer network to all the ultrasound rooms and can view the studies as they are being performed…even if they are in another location.
An ultrasound study usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.
Do I Need to Prepare for an Ultrasound?
Depending on the type of ultrasound study you are having, there may be a preparation required. Please see the instructions below:
Ultrasound of the abdomen: Nothing to eat or drink after midnight (or a minimum of 4 hours before the study)
Ultrasound of the pelvis: Drink 32 ounces of clear liquids one to one and a half hours before the procedure, and do NOT empty your bladder
Where Do I Go for my Ultrasound?
Ultrasound services are available at:
Bryn Mawr Hospital
Lankenau Medical Center
Bryn Mawr Hospital Outpatient Imaging
Paoli Hospital Health Center — Exton
Main Line Health Center — Collegeville
Main Line Health Center — Lawrence Park
Bryn Mawr Hospital Health Center
What Happens Next?
An experienced Main Line Health radiologist will analyze your ultrasounds and send a report to your referring physician, who will inform you on your test results. Results cannot be given directly to the patient or family.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.