Mention a sonogram, and people usually associate it with seeing a picture of an unborn fetus in the womb. It’s in a sonogram that you can detect the gender of a baby. But sonograms are useful in other ways as well. A sonogram, also called a sonograph, refers to any picture of an internal organ taken with ultrasound technology.
The image, or sonogram, is generated through the process called ultrasonography. The technique relies on high frequency sounds to create the picture, thus there’s very little difference between a sonogram vs ultrasound; both are needed to complete the procedure. The sonogram is the image, the ultrasound is the technology used to create the image. While the terms carry different meanings, they often are used interchangeably to refer to the same procedure.
Varying Types of Procedures
Your OBGYN has access to a number of different ultrasound techniques to generate sonograms:
- Transvaginal tests rely on a specially designed probe that is inserted inside your vagina to produce a vaginal sonogram. This procedure may be performed for a variety of reasons:
- You’re in the early stages of a pregnancy.
- You’re experiencing pelvic pain and the cause isn’t easily recognized.
- You may have an ectopic pregnancy (where the fetus is forming in one of your fallopian tubes).
- Your gynecologist is looking for fibroids or cysts.
- You have vaginal bleeding that can’t be explained.
- You’re suffering from infertility and want to know why.
- You’re trying to place an IUD
- Fetal echocardiography is used when it’s suspected your baby may have heart problems. This test may be performed externally — a gel is rubbed on your belly and a wand is passed over the gel to create the sonogram. A fetal echocardiography also can be done internally, with the same probe used in a transvaginal exam.
- Standard ultrasound creates a 2D sonogram. It’s the most common test used to discern the sex of a fetus. It relies on the gel and wand to create the image. It’s also the most common test used to create a pelvic sonogram to look for abnormalities in your vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes or ovaries such as:
- Doppler ultrasound measures changes in the sound frequencies as they bounce around your body. The sonogram is then used to detect fetal abnormalities in the blood flow and the umbilical cord. Doppler sonograms can be used to study the placenta strength as well as other pregnancy complications.
Performed When Necessary
The sonogram gives your physician just one more tool for diagnosing pregnancy complications and other abnormalities in your reproductive system. Insurance usually pays for an ultrasound when it’s medically necessary, but it isn’t always required when you have a routine pregnancy without any complications. Additionally, since the effects of multiple ultrasounds on a fetus aren’t currently known, it’s best to refrain from doing the test too often.
When it comes to discerning more complicated issues in your reproductive organs that don’t have anything to do with a pregnancy, however, a sonogram can prove invaluable. With the exception of the internal vaginal probe, the ultrasound is entirely non-invasive and carries no known risks. As with any internal exam, however, the risk of infection always is present, which is why you need to allow only your trusted OBGYN and his gynecology team to perform internal tests that demand equipment sterility.
No Pain, Lots to Gain
Sonograms are ideal for diagnosing problems that can be treated right away. Sometimes, you may have to return for a follow-up ultrasound to make sure the prescribed treatment is working sufficiently. Additionally, ultrasounds may be necessary if the images showed suspicious signs that your doctor wants to verify.
There is no pain associated with standard and Doppler ultrasounds. In fact, the gel actually may tickle your belly if you are sensitive. A vaginal sonogram test shouldn’t hurt either. It will feel no more uncomfortable than a normal gynecological examination.
Prepare for the Tests
There is little you have to do to prepare for a standard ultrasound test. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes to the office on the day of the test; very often all you need to do is raise your top and lower the waistband of your pants.
Sometimes, you may be asked to remove all your jewelry and clothes to don a gown. Ultrasounds are highly sensitive to outside sounds and movement, so you’ll be asked to refrain from moving around or making any sound.
To get a complete sonogram through a standard or vaginal ultrasound test can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more. Tests usually are read by a radiologist who can examine the sonogram and report the findings to your doctor. The radiologist can also give you results as soon as the procedure is completed.
Benefits of the Sonogram Technology
Getting a sonogram is virtually risk-free and painless with no side effects. And the benefits can be significant when it comes to diagnosing problems and getting the best view possible to ensure your baby’s health. Besides the exciting sonogram taken to determine your baby’s gender, other impressive benefits of ultrasound technology include:
- You don’t have even the minimal risks associated with X-rays, and yet sonograms can discern urinary and reproductive complications.
- Sonograms typically are quite a bit less expensive than more traditional imaging procedures like MRIs and CT scans.
- A pelvic sonogram is effective for both male and female patients to discover urinary tract disorders.
- You get real-time imaging that can be printed or stored as continuous video.
- The procedures are widely used, accepted and available.
- Ultrasound usually provides a clearer picture of soft tissues than most X-rays.
- No recovery period is necessary following an ultrasound.
Nothing, however, is perfect. Ultrasound tests are difficult to perform on obese people because significant layers of fat may interfere with the imaging tools, making it harder to get a clear picture of organs that also may be obscured. Ultrasound also is sensitive to gas and air, so it’s not particularly effective for diagnosing problems with organs that may be surrounded by or filled with air or gases.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult ob/gyn doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified gynecologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have questions about sonogram or sonograph machine we use? Would like to schedule an appointment with internationally recognized, best rated Gynecology doctor, Dr. Pedram Bral of Manhattan Women’s Health and Wellness, please contact our office for OBGYN consultation.consultation.
Dr. Pedram Bral, Gynecologist (Gynecologist NYC, Midtown)
New York, NY10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4575