Ultrasound images allow physicians to visualize internal organs and blood vessels to assess for conditions that may be causing pain, swelling, blood clots, stroke, obstruction, or infection. However, ultrasounds are most commonly used to assess the growth of a developing fetus in pregnant women.
These are the most common types of sonograms that referring providers may request and some representative images:
The arterial ultrasound, a type of vascular ultrasound, assesses the arteries of the limbs and of the large arteries within the neck, abdomen, and pelvis. This exam enables physicians to locate and assess potential blockages and blood clots that could lead to ischemia (decreased blood flow to organs supplied by an artery).
A Doppler ultrasound image of a normal Doppler arterial waveform within the left common carotid artery
A transabdominal ultrasound is performed to visualize all of the solid internal organs within the abdomen (liver, pancreas, spleen, both kidneys) as well as the gallbladder, common bile duct, and the major blood vessels (the aorta and the inferior vena cava). Transabdominal sonography can detect a broad spectrum of diseases, including aneurysms, blockages, inflammation, cirrhosis, and tumors.
A transverse abdominal ultrasound image of a normal liver (the large U shaped structure)
The ultrasound gallbladder is a specialized exam focusing only on the gallbladder and its ducts to assess if cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) or gallstones (hard deposits of cholesterol) are present. This study is non-invasive and typically painless. When the exam does produce pain, this event is termed the “sonographic Murphy’s sign” and represents a high probability of acute cholecystitis which is almost always treated by surgical removal of the organ and its duct.
Normal ultrasound of the gallbladder (the dark teardrop-shaped structure)
The ultrasound pancreas is an exam focusing only on the organ and its ducts to assess if pancreatitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), pancreatic cancer, or pancreatic duct gallstones (hard deposits of cholesterol) are present. The exam is non-invasive and typically painless.
Normal pancreas ultrasound (the dark gray boomerang-shaped structure)
A transvaginal ultrasound assesses a woman’s pelvic region and reproductive organs (uterus, cervix, and ovaries). Unlike most sonograms, the transvaginal ultrasound is invasive, requiring a small probe being inserted into the vagina to enable diagnostic image capture. These exams are performed to assess for ectopic pregnancies, ovarian cysts, uterine and ovarian tumors (typically uterine fibroids), and other potential causes of vaginal bleeding or menstrual problems.
Normal transvaginal ultrasound (the uterus is the large racquet-shaped organ)
This is the most well-known type of sonogram, technically known as an obstetric ultrasound. During a pregnancy ultrasound, the sonographer can view both the embryo or fetus (depending on the age of the pregnancy) and the woman’s uterus and ovaries in real time. This exam allows for careful assessment and documentation of the developing baby’s health. Comparison between scans taken at different points in a pregnancy can be helpful to track fetal growth and to provide reassurance.
Normal 4D pregnancy ultrasound of a healthy 20 week fetus
A testicle ultrasound (technically called a scrotal ultrasound) is a non-invasive procedure that produces images of the testicles, epididymes, and surrounding tissues. The causes of testicular pain, infertility, testicular tumors, and inflammation can be readily assessed on this exam.
Testicle ultrasound with normal structural and color Doppler flow appearance. The testicle is the large oval structure, while the epididymis is the smaller, more circular structure