What is a diagnostic ultrasound?

Diagnostic ultrasounds are also known as ultrasound imaging, ultrasound scanning or sonography. During this non-invasive procedure, high-frequency sound waves are used to produce pictures of various parts of your body. Ultrasounds are different from x-rays because they do not use radiation and because the images can be viewed in real time. Ultrasounds can also capture movement, such as showing blood flowing through blood vessels or the movement of internal organs.

How are ultrasounds used?

Doctors use ultrasound results to diagnose conditions resulting from symptoms such as pain, swelling and infection. They’re also used to:

  • help conduct needle biopsies or other procedures
  • obtain images of the breast and guide breast cancer biopsies and
  • diagnose heart conditions and evaluate the damage caused by a heart attack.


What can I expect during an ultrasound exam?

An ultrasound exam is usually painless and fast. A technologist will position you on the exam table and then apply a warm water-based gel on your skin. The technologist will move a handheld device called a transducer over a specific area of your body to capture the images.