Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside the body.

Alternative Names


How the Test is Performed

An ultrasound machine makes images so that organs inside the body can be examined. The machine sends out high-frequency sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives the waves and uses them to create a picture. Unlike with an x-ray or CT scan, this test does not use ionizing radiation.

The test is done in the ultrasound or radiology department.

How to Prepare for the Test

Your preparation will depend on the part of the body being examined.

Most of the time, ultrasound procedures do not cause discomfort. The conducting gel may feel a little cold and wet.

Why the Test is Performed

The reason for the test will depend on your symptoms.

Normal Results

Results are considered normal if the organs and structures being examined look ok.

What Abnormal Results Mean

The meaning of abnormal results will depend on the part of the body being examined and the problem found. Talk to your health care provider about your questions and concerns.


There are no known risks. The test does not use ionizing radiation.


Some types of ultrasound tests need to be done with a probe that is inserted into your body. Talk to your provider about how your test will be done.


Cosgrove DO, Lim A, Eckersley RJ, et al. Ultrasound. In: Adam A, Dixon AK, Gillard JH, et al. eds. Grainger & Allison's Diagnostic Radiology: A Textbook of Medical Imaging. 6th ed. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 3.