Patients often do not understand ultrasound technology and it is the responsibility of a medical diagnostic sonographer to educate them and/or calm their fears about being scanned. Following are some common myths and the correct information that you need to convey:
– Obstetric ultrasounds are harmful to the baby. Although it is still a relatively new procedure and there is always the chance that an unpleasant discovery will be made in the future, no current evidence supports this claim. However, ultrasounds are elective tests and a patient can minimize the number of ultrasounds that she has during her pregnancy if it makes her feel better.
– Ultrasounds use radiation. Only X-Rays use radiation. Ultrasounds use high-frequency sound waves that bounce around to create a picture of the body’s internal structures.
– 3-D ultrasounds use stronger sound waves than 2-D ultrasounds. Actually, a 3-D ultrasound is just a deluxe version of a 2-D ultrasound. The same frequency of sound waves is used, but it is now possible to create multiple 2-D pictures that the computer assembles into a 3-D image.
– The ultrasound technician can give immediate results. Results of an ultrasound require further review and, depending on how many scans need to be read, this may take some time. A radiologist interprets the images and gives the information to the doctor who ordered the test. Only a patient’s doctor will discuss medical information or make recommendations regarding any health issue.
– Ultrasound is a quick exam. When an exam is ordered, the ultrasound technologist has specific images that must be taken in order for the radiologist to give a complete report to the doctor. They take pride in providing the radiologists with thorough information to assist in diagnosis. While some exams are relatively quick (20 minutes), others may take over an hour. Many factors may increase the time necessary to obtain the images, including patient motion and incomplete prep time.
– I don’t need to undress. In order to conduct an ultrasound, a wand must move over bare skin with the help of water-based gel. If the ultrasound technician cannot reach the entirety of an area needed for an accurate scan with clothes on, the patient should be prepared to change into a medical gown. Friends and family members should leave the screening area to give the patient privacy.
– Ultrasounds aren’t invasive. It is true that most ultrasounds are non-invasive. However, a doctor may want to conduct a vaginal ultrasound to get a better look at a developing baby from a different position or to check cervix dilation in pre-term labor. Additionally, endoscopic ultrasounds are performed in conjunction with an endoscopic procedure to evaluate masses of the esophagus, stomach and pancreas. Intra-operative ultrasounds are used to help a surgeon during a minimally invasive operation or biopsy, and interventional ultrasounds guide a radiologist during minimally invasive procedures. A patient may feel very minimal discomfort, but ultrasound scans typically do not cause pain.
… And no, an ultrasound will not reveal what you ate for breakfast ….or if your bladder contains alcohol with a trace of illegal drugs….or if you are a virgin. Rest assured that some secrets are still safe from this technology.