Ultrasound

We perform ultrasound examinations at Southampton General Hospital, the Princess Anne Hospital and the Royal South Hants.

What is an ultrasound? 

An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to takes images of parts of your body. As it is simple and safe, it is often one of our first lines of investigation. You can find out more about ultrasound on the NHS Choices website.

Do I need to prepare for my scan?

Your preparation depends on the scan you are having.

You should not eat for six hours before an upper abdominal scan. This allows your gallbladder to fill, reduces intestinal gas, and keeps your stomach empty so it doesn't obscure your other organs. You can drink a little water, black tea or coffee, but not milk.

For gynaecological and renal scans, you will be asked to attend with a full bladder. It is best to drink one litre of fluid an hour before the examination.

For small parts imaging, such as testes, tendons, muscles and scans of the neck, you don't need to prepare.

Who will I see?

A radiologist or sonographer (who is appropriately trained), depending on what type of examination you are having.

What happen during the scan?

You will be asked about your health and current symptoms relating to the scan.

You will be asked to lie down on the couch. You generally will not be asked to change into a hospital gown, but will be asked to remove clothes away from the area being examined.

The room will be dimly lit as to aid visual assessment of the monitor.

The Radiologist/Sonographer will sit or stand by your side and gel will be applied to the skin. A probe is gently moved across the area of interest. You may be asked to roll onto your side, sit or even stand during the examination.

For abdominal examinations you will be asked to take deep breaths and hold your breath for a few moments. If you require a full bladder and it is uncomfortable, tell the Radiologist/Sonographer and they will assess this first and then let you empty it.

Occasionally the bladder may not be full enough to assess and you will be asked to drink some more fluid and sit and wait until the bladder fills.

As Southampton is a teaching hospital, professionals who are training may be present at the time of your scan. If you do not wish a student to be present then please inform the Radiologist/Sonographer before the examination starts.

How long will it take?

Your appointment letter will advise you on how long your scan will take. Most examinations take 10 to 15 minutes, but more specialized scans can take up to an hour. Delays do sometimes happen if there are emergencies, so please be patient.

Are there any side effects?

No. You can drive home afterwards and return to work as appropriate.

Can you eat and drink afterwards?

Yes. Follow your normal dietary routine.

Can you bring a friend/relative?

Yes. One adult may accompany you.

When will I get the results?

After the scan, the images will be examined further by the radiologist or sonographer, who will then prepare a written report. This will be sent to your referring clinician.

GP referrals take 10-14 days for the report to become available at your surgery.

If it is a hospital consultant referral, the results will be sent through to them in clinic. As a general rule, an outpatient appointment will be arranged for you at the appropriate clinic to discuss the results.

Contact us

You can get in touch by calling the phone number on your appointment letter.