Ultrasound Education

Abdominal ultrasound imaging is performed to evaluate the:

kidneys
liver
gallbladder
pancreas
spleen
abdominal aorta and other blood vessels of the abdomen
Ultrasound is used to help diagnose a variety of conditions, such as:

abdominal pain or distention.
abnormal liver function.
enlarged abdominal organ.
stones in the gallbladder or kidney.
an aneurysm in the aorta.
Additionally, ultrasound may be used to provide guidance for biopsies.

The carotid ultrasound is most frequently performed to detect narrowing, or stenosis, of the carotid artery, a condition that substantially increases the risk of stroke.

The major goal of carotid ultrasound is to screen patients for blockage or narrowing of their carotid arteries, which if present may increase their risk of having a stroke. If a significant narrowing is detected, a comprehensive treatment may be initiated.

It may also be performed if a patient has high blood pressure or a carotid bruit (pronounced brU-E)—an abnormal sound in the neck that is heard with the stethoscope. In some cases, it is also performed in preparation for coronary artery bypass surgery. Other risk factors calling for a carotid ultrasound are:

diabetes
elevated blood cholesterol
a family history of stroke or heart disease
A carotid ultrasound is also performed to:

locate a hematoma, a collection of clotted blood that may slow and eventually stop blood flow.
check the state of the carotid artery after surgery to restore normal blood flow.
verify the position of a metal stent placed to maintain carotid blood flow.
Doppler ultrasound images can help the physician to see and evaluate:

blockages to blood flow (such as clots)
narrowing of vessels
tumors and congenital vascular malformations
less than normal or absent blood flow to various organs
greater than normal blood flow to different areas which is sometimes seen in infections

The most common reason for a venous ultrasound exam is to search for blood clots, especially in the veins of the leg. This condition is often referred to as deep vein thrombosis or DVT. These clots may break off and pass into the lungs, where they can cause a dangerous condition called pulmonary embolism. If the blood clot in the leg is found early enough, treatment can be started to prevent it from passing to the lung.

A venous ultrasound study is also performed to:

determine the cause of long-standing leg swelling. In people with a common condition called “varicose veins”, the valves that keep blood flowing back to the heart in the right direction may be damaged, and venous ultrasound can help the radiologist decide how best to deal with this condition.
aid in the placement of a needle or catheter into a vein. Sonography can help locate the exact site of the vein and avoid complications, such as bleeding or damage to a nearby nerve or artery.
map out the veins in the leg or arm so that pieces of vein may be removed and used to bypass a narrowed or blocked blood vessel. An example is using pieces of vein from the leg to surgically bypass narrowed heart (coronary) arteries.
examine a blood vessel graft used for dialysis if it is not working as expected; for example, the graft may be narrowed or blocked.

An X-ray is a test that uses radiation to produce images of the bones and organs of the body. Spine X-rays provide detailed images of the bones of the spine, and can be taken separately for the three main parts of the spine–cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back) and lumbar (lower back).

During an X-ray, a focused beam of radiation is passed through your body, and a black-and-white image is recorded on special film or a computer.

X-rays work because the body’s tissues vary in density (thickness). Each tissue allows a different amount of radiation to pass through and expose the X-ray-sensitive film. Bones, for example, are very dense, and most of the radiation is prevented from passing through to the film. As a result, bones appear white on an X-ray. Tissues that are less dense–such as the lungs, which are filled with air–allow more of the X-rays to pass through to the film and appear on the image in shades of gray.

Why is a spine X-ray ordered?
A spine X-ray may be ordered to evaluate a back or neck injury, or to help with the diagnosis and treatment of back or neck pain. Spine X-rays can help detect:

Fractures (breaks)
Tumors (abnormal masses of cells)
Arthritis
Disc problems
Deformities in the curves of the spine
Osteoporosis (thinning of the bones)
Infection

A skull x-ray is a picture of the bones surrounding the brain, including the facial bones, the nose, and the sinuses.
Your doctor may order this x-ray if you have injured your skull. You may also have this x-ray if you have symptoms or signs of a structural problem inside the skull, such as a tumor or bleeding.

A skull x-ray is also used to evaluate an unusually shaped child’s head.

Other conditions for which the test may be performed include:

Teeth are not aligned properly (malocclusion of teeth)
Infection of the mastoid bone (mastoiditis)
Occupational hearing loss
Middle ear infection (otitis media)
Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear that causes hearing loss (otosclerosis)
Pituitary tumor
Sinus infection (sinusitis)