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What Is a Sonogram?

A sonogram is a medical test. It makes use of soundwaves, which are bounced against the body’s organs to compose a picture, which is displayed in the computer and can be printed out to help the doctor make the proper diagnosis.

During the sonogram, the doctor spreads a cold, thick gel on the body and then glides a wand (transducer) on the skin. The transducer emits soundwaves. The sonogram does not use radiation, making it a very safe procedure, and provides information not available through x-rays. It is also painless.

The sonogram is used to detect and monitor pregnancy. It can detect the presence of multiple pregnancies, or tubal pregnancies, and can even check the size, gender, and some features of the developing fetus. A sonogram can also alert the doctor of any major birth defects or problems with the uterus or amniotic fluid levels allowing him or her to make adequate preparations or precautions. A sonogram done in the earliest stages of pregnancy can also help identify the age of the fetus and the due date.

The sonogram can also identify menstrual problems and locate cysts or other potentially cancerous cells. In fact, it is crucial in identifying prostate cancer—dispelling the widely-held belief that sonograms are only used on women.

Prior to a scheduled sonogram exam, a patient may be requested to refrain from taking any food or liquid, especially if the stomach will be examined. On the other hand, a pregnant woman may be asked to take large amounts of liquid, to give a clearer picture of the baby.

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