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What is Sonography?

Sonography , also called ultrasound scanning  is a method of obtaining pictures  or images from inside the body. It involves sending very high frequency sound waves through the body. These sound waves are reflected by the internal organs. The reflections are then processed by special instruments and powerful computers that subsequently create a visual image of the organs. Sonographic images are captured in real time and displayed on a monitor for detailed analysis. A sonographic scan is a painless, usually non-invasive, procedure. There are several methods of performing the examination depending on the part of the body being examined.

Preparing for a scan

Generally there is no complicated preparation required for sonographic scans, although it is recommended to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, which can be easily removed if necessary. There are no general set instructions for all sonographic examinations. Different examinations require different preparations and you will be given relevant instructions for your type of scan before you arrive at the hospital or clinic.

For some types of scan you may be asked not to eat or drink for at least 8 hours before the scan. You need to ring 0161 226 9259 or email and inform the booking staff if you are diabetic. This will ensure you are given a morning appointment. As soon as the scan is completed, you will be able to eat and drink normally as well as continue taking your medication. If you are having your womb scanned, you will be asked to come to the appointment with a full bladder. This is because the full bladder pushes the womb up so it is in a position that is easier to scan. You may need a full bladder for a bladder scan too. There is a toilet close by, so you will be able to go as soon as the scan is over.

During the scan

When you arrive for a scan you may be shown to a cubicle and asked to take off your outer clothing and put on a gown. Whether you have to undress or not will depend on the part of your body to be scanned.

You will be taken into the scanning room and asked to lie on a couch next to the ultrasound machine. You may be able to sit up depending on which part of your body is being scanned. A clear, water- based gel will be spread onto your skin over the scanning site. This helps to transmit the sound waves to the microphone in the transducer. The Sonography Practitioner will press the transducer onto your skin and move it back and forth over the part of your body that is being scanned. The scan will appear on the machine screen, which will be next to you. You will be awake throughout the examination. If you would like to have the image explained to you, just ask. Sonographic scans are usually quite difficult to interpret if you don’t know what you are looking at. The Sonography Practitioner may also ask you to take deep breaths in or move into different positions to obtain the best possible images.

Depending on the type of scan being carried out, the examination will usually take between 20 to 30 minutes. Some types of scan may require the transducer (probe) to be used internally. These are typically transvaginal or transrectal scans. When scanning the female pelvis, a transvaginal approach is used as it gives superior quality images. For this scan, a small pen-shaped transducer is given a protective cover, lubricated with a small amount of gel and then gently inserted into the vagina up to the cervix. This technique acquires the best images. It should not cause more than a slight discomfort. For any examinations requiring an internal examination, you should be accompanied by a chaperone provided by the clinic.

At the end of the scan, the gel can be wiped off your skin. You will then get off the couch and put on any clothes you may have removed. You will be able to go home once the scan is over.

Finding out the results

The Sonography Practitioner who is carrying out the examination will be able to briefly explain the images to you during or just after the scan has taken place. The Sonographer will then analyze the images in detail and send a report with the interpretation of the scan to your referring healthcare clinician. In cases of screening, a letter will also be sent to you to explain the findings.

It can take 5-7 days for a sonography report to come through to your referring clinician. If your referring clinician needs the report urgently, it would have been noted on the scan request/referral form and the results will be ready sooner than that. Remember to ask your referring clinician how long you should expect to wait for the results when you are first asked to go for the scan. If it is not an emergency, and you have not heard for a couple of weeks after your scan, ring your referring clinician’s practice to check if they have received the report.

Any side or longterm effects?

Sonography has been used in pregnancy for nearly 30 years. It is generally considered a safe imaging modality. Medical research has found no side effects. No association has been shown between ultrasound exposure and the baby’s birth weight, childhood leukaemias or other cancers, eyesight, hearing or dyslexia. If you have any concerns, please discuss with your clinician at the time of referral or the Sonographer prior to the scan.

Research & scientific advancements

Harmonic Medical Sonography is investing into a number of projects that will explore innovative ways of ultrasound image acquisition and analysis, patient engagement strategies and service delivery. Our research and developments projects have got only one goal i.e. to improve patient experience and outcomes.

Professional guidelines and regulation

Guidelines for sonographic examinations are laid down, revised and updated by various professional bodies including the Society & College of Radiographers (SCoR), the Royal College of Radiologists(RCR), the British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS) and the European Federation of Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology (EFUSMB). Regional organisations such as the Manchester Medical Society and Greater Manchester Soft Tissue Sarcoma Services also provide regular and invaluable feedback on diseases that may be encountered within the region enhancing our ongoing learning.

Scanning should not be carried out without clear medical reasons and all sonographic exposure should be justified and limited to the minimum needed to make a diagnosis. Harmonic Medical Sonography subscribes to the above professional & regulatory organisations. We are constantly updating our knowledge, utilising the latest scanning technologies and employing only scientifically proven scanning techniques.

The Healthcare Professions Council (HCPC) and Care Quality Commission (CQC) monitor our professional conduct, and regulate our activities respectively, providing guidance and ensuring adherence to the law.

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