Preparing for an ultrasound scan
The doctor recommending an ultrasound scan will generally talk a person through the nature of why it is to be used, and thus how to best prepare for the examination. For the most part, pre-examination preparation will depend on the portion of the body to be examined, but does not necessarily always require specific pre-examination prep.
Unless otherwise instructed, eating and drinking as normal is absolutely fine before and after an ultrasound examination, as well as the taking of medications.
In some instances, a fasting period of between 8 and 12 hours will be required (ahead of an abdominal or vascular ultrasound). This is to avoid problems with sound waves encountering undigested foodstuffs in the stomach, which can result in unclear visuals.
If the digestive system or organs such as the liver, pancreas, gallbladder or spleen are to be examined, eating a fat-free and or / low-fibre meal the night before may be required followed by a short period of fasting (for up to 6 hours before the scan). This is to minimise the presence of gas in the digestive system, which can hinder scan results (by leading to the production of visuals which are not clear enough to interpret accurately). Water and necessary medications, may however, still be taken during this pre-examination period.
Other times, a doctor may request that a person drink a lot of water in the hours leading up to the scan and not expel any urine, ensuring that the bladder is full at the time of the scan (this may be required when undergoing a pelvic ultrasound examination or when viewing an unborn foetus, or the general condition of the uterus and ovaries). In this way, an area, such as the bladder can be better visualised during the examination. Sometimes the bowel may be cleared by giving an enema before a scan procedure.
It is important to inform an examining medical doctor or radiographer about any medications being taken, including all prescription, over-the-counter and supplements, ahead of an ultrasound scan procedure. Disclosing these can be very useful for diagnostic purposes.
In some instances, depending on the portion of the body being examined, a person may be asked to remove specific items of clothing and wear a medical gown that is provided. A doctor may also suggest wearing loose-fitting clothing on the day to ensure comfort.
Where necessary, a sedative can be administered (through an IV / intravenous line via the back of the hand or through a vein in the arm) if a person requires something to help them relax during the procedure.