What is bladder ultrasound?

A bladder ultrasound is an ultrasound imaging study in which the goal is to obtain a clear image of the bladder in order to assess the health of the bladder. In addition to imaging the bladder, the study may also include imaging of the kidneys, since these organs are closely related. This painless, noninvasive medical test can sometimes provide a wealth of useful information that will help a doctor arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan.

In ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves are projected into the body and recorded on their return. Changes in sound waves are used to create a map of the inside of the body. Classically, ultrasound is performed with a handheld transducer that can send and receive information, and the image is displayed on a screen using a computer program that interprets the data from the ultrasound transducer.

When an ultrasound of the bladder is ordered, the ultrasound technician or doctor will apply a thin layer of conductive gel to the lower abdomen and manipulate a transducer into the area until the bladder becomes visible on the screen. At this point, the angle and location of the transducer can be adjusted to image as much of the bladder as possible, along with the kidneys, if desired. The resulting images can be studied by the doctor.

In some cases, an ultrasound of the bladder may be ordered because someone has problems with their bladder. Ultrasound can reveal the presence of a blockage, such as a tumor or kidney stones, and can also reveal signs of inflammation and other problems. Ultrasound can also be used to determine bladder volume, or to check on a patient's post-surgical recovery and to look for birth defects in the bladder, kidneys, and urinary tract that could be responsible for the patient's health problems.

During the ultrasound of the bladder, the person administering the test can point out anatomical structures of interest, if requested. If he or she is a doctor, live interpretation can also be offered on the image, such as identifying a tumor or a report that the ultrasound appears clear. Ultrasound technicians cannot provide diagnostic information and medical advice to patients, although they will make a note of the findings when writing a report to a physician. If the ultrasound technician has a strange expression or a worried expression during a bladder ultrasound, this is not necessarily a cause for panic, and patients should try not to bother the technician with questions that they cannot legally answer.

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