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A bladder ultrasound is an ultrasound imaging study in which the goal is to get a clear image of the bladder for the purpose of evaluating bladder health. In addition to acquiring images of the bladder, the study may also include imaging of the kidneys, since these organs are closely related. This painless and noninvasive medical test can sometimes provide a great deal of useful information which will help a doctor arrive at a diagnosis and treatment plan.
In ultrasound imaging, high frequency sound waves are projected into the body and recorded upon their return. The changes in the sound waves are used to create a map of the inside of the body. Classically, ultrasound is performed with a hand held transducer which can send and receive information, and the image is displayed on a screen with the use of a computer program which interprets the data from the ultrasound transducer.
When a bladder ultrasound is requested, the ultrasound technician or doctor will apply a thin layer of conductive gel to the lower belly, and manipulate a transducer in 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, a bladder ultrasound may be requested because someone is having problems with his or her bladder. The ultrasound can reveal the presence of an obstruction, such as a tumor or kidney stones, and it can also reveal signs of inflammation and other problems. The ultrasound may also be used to determine bladder volume, or to check on a patient's post-surgical recovery, and to look for congenital defects in the bladder, kidneys, and urinary tract which might be responsible for a patient's health problems.
During the bladder ultrasound, the person administering the test may point out anatomical structures of interest, if requested to do so. If he or she is a doctor, live interpretation about the image may also be offered, such as identification of a tumor, or a report that the ultrasound looks clear. Ultrasound technicians are not permitted to provide diagnostic information and medical advice to patients, although they will note findings when writing up a report for a doctor. If the ultrasound technician has a strange expression or a look of concern during a bladder ultrasound, this is not necessarily a cause for panic, and patients should try not to pester the technician with questions he or she may not be legally allowed to answer.