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Ultrasonography, or ultrasound, is a common imaging exam. Unlike X-rays, ultrasound does not expose you to radiation. Instead, it uses painless sound waves to create pictures of the inside of the body.
At Dignity Health, our trusted doctors use ultrasound in Sacramento, CA and surrounding areas as part of our emergency services. Ultrasound as an emergency service is provided at the clinical team’s request only.
We use three types of ultrasounds:
Ultrasound is an invaluable tool to help emergency doctors triage and diagnose patients. In an emergency, ultrasonography can help:
Call 911 in an emergency for care or come to your nearest Dignity Health emergency room. Select your estimated arrival time using our online waiting service, InQuicker™. You can trust our medical experts for personal, quality care and the latest ultrasound technologies.
During an ultrasound, an experienced technologist moves a small device, called a transducer, over the skin of area being examined. A water-based gel helps this device maintain contact with your skin. Ultrasounds typically take about 30 minutes to an hour. During the exam, you may feel slight pressure as the transducer moves over your skin. Some types of exams use an internal probe to look inside your body. Examples are transvaginal or transrectal ultrasounds. There may be some discomfort with these exams.
A radiologist at Dignity Health will interpret the results and share them with the emergency room doctor. Your emergency room doctor may even have additional training and expertise to control the ultrasound. Otherwise, the technologist will handle it. The results of the ultrasound can help the doctor make a diagnosis and recommend additional testing or treatment.
If you have a bedside (portable) ultrasound, you stay in the emergency room for the test. Otherwise, you complete the test in the radiology department and return to the emergency room once the ultrasound is complete. Keep in mind you may have additional imaging tests to get more information or to confirm the initial results.
There are no known risks of ultrasound. However, there is the possibility of a false-positive or false-negative result. A false-positive is when the ultrasound is interpreted as showing a problem that isn’t there. A false-negative result is when the ultrasound misses a problem that is really there.