Quality CareFind out why Mayo Clinic is the right place for your health care. Make an appointment.
Meet the StaffFind a directory of doctors and departments at all Mayo Clinic campuses. Visit now.
Research and Clinical TrialsSee how Mayo Clinic research and clinical trials advance the science of medicine and improve patient care. Explore now.
Visit Our SchoolsEducators at Mayo Clinic train tomorrow’s leaders to deliver compassionate, high-value, safe patient care. Choose a degree.
Professional ServicesExplore Mayo Clinic’s many resources and see jobs available for medical professionals. Get updates.
Give to Mayo ClinicHelp set a new world standard in care for people everywhere. Give now.
Mayo Clinic offers appointments in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota and at Mayo Clinic Health System locations.
Subscribe to Housecall
Our general interest e-newsletter keeps you up to date on a wide variety of health topics.
During an ultrasound exam, you usually lie on an examination table. A small amount of gel is applied to your skin. The gel helps eliminate the formation of air pockets between the ultrasound and your body. During the exam, a technician trained in ultrasound imaging (sonographer) presses a small hand-held device (transducer), about the size of a bar of soap, against your skin over the area of your body being examined, moving from one area to another as necessary.
Based on the same principles as sonar, a technology used to detect underwater objects, the transducer generates and receives high-frequency sound waves that can't be heard by the human ear.
As the sonographer places the transducer on your skin, crystals inside the transducer emit pulses of sound waves that travel into your body. Your tissues, bones and body fluids reflect the sound waves and bounce them back to the transducer. The transducer then sends this information to a computer, which composes detailed images based on the patterns created by the sound waves.
Though the majority of ultrasound exams are performed with a transducer on your skin, some ultrasounds are done inside your body (invasive ultrasounds). For these exams, a specialized transducer is attached to a probe that's inserted into a natural opening in your body. Examples of these exams include:
Ultrasound is usually a painless procedure. However, you may experience some mild discomfort as the sonographer guides the transducer over your body, especially if you're required to have a full bladder. A typical ultrasound exam takes from 30 minutes to an hour.
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Proceeds from website advertising help support our mission. Mayo Clinic does not endorse non-Mayo products and services.
Check out these best-sellers and special offers on books and newsletters from Mayo Clinic.
A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.