Pediatric Ultrasound

What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound (also called sonography) uses sound waves to create images of internal organs, structures, and tissues. The sound waves are transmitted by a handheld device called a transducer, at a frequency above the range audible to the human ear. As these waves echo back from the internal tissues, they are sent to a computer that transforms the reflected waves into a visual image.

Ultrasound is painless and involves no radiation.

How can I help my child prepare for the exam?

Preparation for the exam will depend on the reason for the exam. Your child should wear comfortable clothes on the day of the exam. If you have copies of prior exams, please bring them with you. Please make childcare arrangements for siblings as they will not be allowed into the exam room.

These ultrasound exams need no special preparation:

  • Spine
  • Arms and Legs
  • Hip
  • Brain
  • Thyroid
  • Scrotum
  • Soft tissue masses

Abdominal Ultrasound Preparation

Your child may not eat or drink for a period of time before the study:

  • Infants: 2 hours
  • 1 to 4 years old: 3 to 4 hours
  • 5 to 10 years old: 4 hours
  • 11 years and older: 6 to 8 hours

Kidney, Bladder, or Pelvic Ultrasound Preparation

Your child must have a full bladder for this exam. Depending on their age, you can help them drink enough liquid before the exam. They do not need to restrict food.

  • 0 to 2 years old: Give them a liquid feeding one hour prior to the appointment and bring extra juice or formula in a bottle to the exam.
  • 3 to 5 years old: Your child should drink at least 8 ounces of juice or water one half hour before the appointment. Do not let your child empty their bladder before the exam.
  • 6 to 10 years old: Your child should drink 16 to 24 ounces of juice or water one hour before the appointment. Do not let your child empty their bladder before the exam.
  • 11 and older: Your child should drink 32 ounces of juice or water one hour before the exam. Do not let your child empty their bladder before the exam.

What will happen during the exam?

Your child may be asked to change into a gown when you arrive for the ultrasound exam. You will be allowed to stay with your child throughout the exam.

During an ultrasound the technologist will ask your child to lie either face up or on their side on the exam table. The technologist will cover the skin over the area to be looked at with a small amount of warm gel. This prevents air pockets from forming between the transducer and skin. The technologist will turn off the lights before the exam to make the pictures clearer on the screen.

The technologist will then glide the transducer over the skin, moving from one area to another, to capture the images of the internal organs and tissues. Your child may be instructed to hold his or her breath at times, to prevent motion on the images.

An ultrasound exam takes about 30 minutes.

How can I help my child feel comfortable during this exam?

You can remain with your child during an ultrasound to offer comfort and reassurance. We can also arrange to have a child life specialist speak to your child about the exam, which can help ease any stress they may be experiencing.

Are there any risks?

Ultrasound does not use radiation, special dyes, or anesthesia and has no known risks or side effects.

After the exam

Your child can immediately resume normal activities after the ultrasound. A radiologist will analyze the images and share the results with the doctor who requested the exam. Your child’s doctor will then discuss the results with you.