Ultrasound Scan: Truths & Dares.Bye-bye Fear!

Ultrasound scan

One of the first things I’m told as I walk into the clinic for my ultrasound scanning appointment is to drink some water from the canister nearby. I can’t help gulping down 5-6 glasses especially when the paper cup is smaller than a baby’s sipper. My turn arrives & as I’m walking in, I realize my bladder’s pretty much about to burst. With all that pressure building in, I’m told to lie down & lift my shirt up,  and a gel is squished onto my tummy. Everything’s bearable until the doctor starts gliding the probe over & at this point, you can literally see my tummy shaking with suppressed laughter. Great! As if my bursting bladder isn’t enough that I have to feel ticklish too!

If not as awkward as the above situation, going for an ultrasound isn’t exactly in one’s comfort zone, especially when one doesn’t know what to expect.

How the Ultrasound scan (USG scan) works & its uses:

Ultrasound is considered one of the most essential diagnostic tools not only used by the obstetrician & gynaecologist, but also by the cardiologist, physician & surgeon as well. 

The working of an ultrasound revolves around the concept of soundwaves & echo production. So there’s a handheld device called a transducer probe that’s placed on the skin in the area that the doctor wants to focus on. It sends out focused high frequency sound waves (meaning its inaudible to human beings), that passes through that area & on encountering an organ, tissue or fluid, these sound waves are reflected back & an image is produced on the monitor that the doctor can assess. 

There are two types of ultrasound scanning: non-invasive (external) & internal types. An external USG is done to assess the internal organs by placing the probe lubricated by the gel on the outside eg. abdomen, pelvic area etc; the gel is used to prevent any air from getting in between the transducer & the abdomen, ensuring better quality of images.  Internal USG uses a probe to assess the internal organs either through the vagina, rectum or the esophagus accordingly.

Some of the notable uses of usg scanning are detection of early pregnancy, fetal abnormalities, tumours of the ovary & uterus, problems of the liver & kidney as well as assessing fetal development, diagnosis of PCOS/PCOD etc.

Ultrasound Scan in termination of pregnancy:

Although not mandated, contrary to popular opinion, it is used in the evaluation of selective cases of pregnancy where it can be used prior to termination & post termination of pregnancy.

Obstetricians & gynaecologists recommend it in selective cases which require ruling out factors that can risk the woman’s health. Also for the cases which need confirmation about the duration of pregnancy when it can’t be confirmed on the basis of clinical history & examination, an ultrasound scan is advised. Otherwise, a scan isn’t a necessity in every case of termination of pregnancy.

For prior termination, it’s recommended in women in their premarital years, pregnancy with uncertain dates & clinical history, ectopic pregnancy, complicated cases, pregnancy done via in vitro fertilization & multiple pregnancies requiring selective termination are some of them. 

As for post termination, it’s advised when the person has abnormal bleeding, irregular menstrual cycles, abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal discharge etc. 

Procedure of Ultrasound Scan & prepping for it: 

The most common type of USG is the non-invasive (external) type. Ideally, during the waiting time after being done with the paperwork, you’ll be told to drink water often so that the bladder becomes full (as this helps in acquiring better images). It’s better to bring your own water bottle & sip it while scrolling through your Insta/Twitter till your turn arrives as having a lot of water at once will make you want to pee faster. 

Once inside, you may be asked to change into a gown. If not, you’ll be told to lie down & lift your clothes in order to carry out the test. It’s better to wear comfortable clothing as this makes it easier for the doctor too. Then a gel will be applied on your abdomen/pelvic area & images will be acquired using the handheld probe. It takes around 15-30 minutes. After the scanning is done, a piece of cotton or tissue will be handed over to wipe the gel off. The results of the scan may be discussed after the scan immediately or during the next appointment, depending on what the doctor counsels. 

Relax!

Ultrasound scanning is accepted as one of the safest diagnostic tools worldwide. It is painless, doesn’t emit any harmful radiation and can be done within a short time. As overwhelming as it might seem, it’s there to help us out. Always make sure to consult your doctor before & after taking an ultrasound scan & clear out all your doubts without hesitation. If you still feel apprehensive, just remember you’ll be in for some gooey tickles mostly!

About the Author:

Teertha Barnwal, a doctor, a medical intern at MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai. Enjoys writing, singing & adventuring. Meditates & believes that life is the biggest adventure.

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