Ultrasound is a painless, non-invasive exam using sound waves to capture images of various body parts. The high-frequency sound waves used bounce off body tissues and are made into images by the ultrasound machine. Ultrasound imaging shows real-life movement of internal organs and blood flow. This allows specialists to diagnose problems within your child’s internal organs. Ultrasound does not involve any ionizing radiation.

How to Prepare

Preparation for an ultrasound varies, depending on which body part is being examined. Some exams may require food and drink restrictions, while others may require a full bladder. Instructions for preparation for some of the most common ultrasound procedures are below.

Abdominal Ultrasound (including Liver, Gallbladder and Pancreas)

Your child should not eat or drink anything (called NPO—nil per os [Latin]) before the exam. This is necessary to limit abdominal gas and to ensure adequate distention of the gallbladder.

Here are instructions according to age:

  • Under 2 years: NPO for four hours
  • 3 to 8 years: NPO for six hours
  • 9 years and older: NPO for eight hours

Patients on continuous feeding need to stop feeding four hours before the exam.

Pelvic Ultrasound

Your child needs to have a full bladder to make her uterus and ovaries more visible during the ultrasound. She should begin drinking 45 minutes before the exam and try not to urinate.

Here is the recommended fluid intake according to age:

  • Under 2 years: one bottle or one glass if possible
  • 2 to 6 years: two glasses or 16 ounces if possible
  • 7 to 12 years: three glasses or 24 ounces if possible
  • 13 years and older: four glasses or 32 ounces if possible

Renal (Kidney) and Bladder Ultrasound

There are no specific instructions for this exam; however, we are unable to visualize the bladder if it is empty. Encourage your child to drink without urinating before the exam.

What You Can Expect

Your child will lie down for the ultrasound, and may also need to roll into different positions. The technologist will apply a warm, water-based gel to your child’s skin. He or she will then glide a handheld device, called a transducer, across the area being imaged.

The technologist may ask your child to hold his or her breath to help obtain clearer images. Although your child is expected to hold still, our technologists are accustomed to handling children who may not cooperate.

We encourage you or another caregiver to help by holding your child’s hand or talking. A favorite toy from home is welcome and there are TVs in each exam room to help entertain your child during the exam.

The duration of an ultrasound depends on the body part being imaged. The exam may take as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour.

What Happens After the Ultrasound?

Your child’s ultrasound results will be made available to your referring physician within 48 hours. Your physician will then contact you with the results and discuss further options and treatments available for your child based on the ultrasound results.