What is an ultrasound? Learn what to expect and other FAQs

When many people think of an ultrasound, they think of pregnancy. Pregnancy is one use for ultrasound imaging, but ultrasound can also be used for many parts of the body and in many situations — for example, to look at your kidneys, liver, gallbladder or thyroid.

What is an ultrasound used for?

Doctors might order an ultrasound for a variety of reasons, depending on what part of the body they need to see.

Do ultrasounds hurt?

Ultrasound exams don’t hurt, and there’s no radiation involved. You’ll mainly feel a little pressure and some cool gel (though sometimes the gel has even been warmed for you).

What to expect after check-in for an ultrasound

When you show up for an ultrasound, an ultrasound tech will typically have you lie down and stay relatively still. They might ask you to hold your breath at times, or reposition yourself.

Expert Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy: Answers to more of your questions

How long do ultrasound exams last?

An ultrasound might last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the exam.

What happens after an ultrasound?

Once the ultrasound exam is complete, the doctor will forward the images to a radiologist, at which point the radiologist will read the exam to make sure there aren’t any abnormalities on the image.


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