Ultrasou​​nd

Ultrasound is an imaging technology that uses high frequency sound waves to produce precise images of structures within the human body. These images provide valuable information to diagnose and treat disease.

Ultrasound is an especially valuable tool when imaging children because it is noninvasive, there is no radiation and the exam is painless. However, a full bladder is required for several exams. In those cases your child may experience some mild discomfort as the sonographer (ultrasound technologist) guides the transducer over their body.

Ultrasound examinations are very sensitive to motion, so it is best if your child holds as still as possible during the examination. To ensure a smooth experience, it often helps to explain the procedure to the child prior to the examination. You may also consider bringing books, small toys, music and/or games to help distract the child and make the time pass quickly.

Ultrasound is used for various kinds of examinations of your child’s body, including:

  • Evaluate the structure of organs
  • Screen for abnormalities
  • Monitor the progression or resolution of a disease process
  • Document and measure the blood flow through vessels

The sonographers at Lurie Children's are specifically trained in exams unique to children. They are required to earn a Pediatric Sonography credential through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). 

Preparing for Different Types of Ultrasounds

Abdominal - An abdominal ultrasound is used to evaluate several different organs, including the liver, biliary system, gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, spleen and bowel (appendicitis and intussusception). In order to better visualize these organs, there are age-specific dietary preparations for this examination.

2 years and younger​ Nothing by mouth for two hours prior to exam, can have water​
​2-10 years old ​Nothing by mouth for 4-6 hours prior to exam, can have water
​Over 10 years old ​Nothing by mouth for 8 hours prior to exam, can have water
 

Renal - A renal ultrasound is used to evaluate the kidneys and urinary tract. The patient should be well hydrated and not urinate one hour prior to the appointment.

Hip - A hip ultrasound is used to evaluate the hip joint and surrounding structures. The optimal time to perform this examination is from 6 weeks to 6 months of age. The sonographer will need assistance from a family member to hold the infant in the correct position.

There are no specific preparations for this examination. However, it is helpful to have a pacifier or bottle to sooth the baby during the examination.

Neonatal Head - A head ultrasound is used to evaluate the structure of the brain. This examination can only be performed on infants who have an open fontanelle or “soft” spot on top of their head. The sonographer will apply a clear, water-based gel to the transducer (probe) and with a light touch scan through the soft spot.

There are no specific preparations for this examination. However, it is helpful to have a pacifier or bottle to sooth the baby during the examination.

Pyloric Stenosis - This examination evaluates the muscle connecting the stomach to the small intestines that can become thickened causing projectile vomiting in an infant. In order to properly evaluate the pylorus, the baby should not be fed two hours prior to the exam. The Sonographer will change the infant’s position during the examination. The sonographer will need assistance from a family member to hold the infant in the correct position.

Spine - A spine ultrasound is used to evaluate the spinal canal and its structures. This examination is performed on infants under 4 months of age. The sonographer will place warm gel on baby’s back to obtain the images.

There are no specific preparations for this examination. However, it is helpful to have a pacifier or bottle to sooth the baby during the examination.

Pelvic - A pelvic ultrasound is used to evaluate the bladder and/or the female reproductive system. In order to visualize these structures, the patient should drink 32 ounces of water a half hour prior to the appointment time and not use the restroom. It may be slightly uncomfortable for the patient to have a full bladder, but it is essential to obtain accurate images. 

If the patient is too young to drink or is unable to maintain a full bladder it is suggested to keep the patient well hydrated prior to the appointment.

Scrotal - A scrotal ultrasound is used to evaluate the scrotum, testicles and surrounding tissues. There is no preparation for this examination. However, if the patient is an infant, it is helpful to have a pacifier or bottle to sooth the baby during the examination.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) - A MSK ultrasound is used to evaluate joints and joint spaces, tendons, muscles tears, ligaments sprains or tears. There is no preparation for this examination. However, if the patient is an infant, it is helpful to have a pacifier or bottle to sooth the baby during the examination.

Neck/Thyroid - A neck and/or thyroid ultrasound is used to evaluate the thyroid and/or surrounding structures in the neck. There is no preparation for this examination. However, if the patient is an infant, it is helpful to have a pacifier or bottle to sooth the baby during the examination.

Doppler - Doppler ultrasound is used to evaluate the integrity of blood flow within organs and/or structures.

What to Expect  

After you check in for your appointment, your sonographer will lead you and your child to the ultrasound room. While parents will be allowed to accompany their child into the room, it might be helpful to make other arrangements for siblings. There will be a large machine in the room that looks like it has a TV screen. The sonographer will explain the procedure to you and your child. Your child will lie on a bed on their back and/or front, depending on the exam being performed.

The sonographer may ask your child to change into a gown or remove clothing to expose the area to be examined. You will be encouraged to sit next to and support your child in a comforting position.

The sonographer will then place some warm gel on your child's skin, and look at the area of interest with a transducer (we call this a “camera” or probe).  The sonographer operates the equipment and glides the transducer over the patient's skin. The sound waves bounce off the internal structures, creating a digital image seen on the monitor. The lights in the room will be dimmed so the sonographer can properly see the monitor.

A typical ultrasound appointment takes between 30 minutes to one hour.

Watch the video below to see what happens during an ultrasound.

See more general advice for preparing for your child's medical imaging procedure. 

After the Ultrasound

After the exam is completed, the sonographer will step out of the room to review the images with a pediatric radiologist. The radiologist will determine if the exam is complete or if additional images are needed.

If more imaging is necessary, a radiologist may come into the exam room and look at the monitor while the sonographer takes more images. Sometimes, a radiologist may even scan your child.

Once the exam is complete, you and your child can leave. Your child may eat and drink as usual, unless told otherwise by your doctor.

After the images have been reviewed by the radiologist, the results will be reported directly to your referring physician. Your referring physician will discuss the findings and the plan of care with you.

If you feel that your child needs extra support or preparation for this procedure, please ask for a Child Life Specialist (insert hyper link to Child Life page here) to assist you.

Contact   

E-mail Lorraine Chisari, Manager, Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine and PET/CT, or call 312.227.3482 with any questions or concerns.