This information will help you prepare for your ultrasound at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). An ultrasound is also known as a sonogram.

An ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of your internal organs. It is used to check blood flow and to see if a mass is solid or filled with fluid. There is no radiation with an ultrasound, you typically will not need any injections, and there are no known harmful side effects.

During your ultrasound, you will lie on a bed or stretcher. Your ultrasound technologist will apply a gel to the area being examined, and then move a small device over the surface of your skin. Your ultrasound technologist cannot tell you the results during your scan. When your ultrasound is finished, a radiologist will review your ultrasound and send your doctor a written report within 24 hours. Ask your doctor how and when you will be notified of the results.

Types of Ultrasounds

There are different ways to prepare for your ultrasound depending on where on your body it's being done. Please review the information below for the type of ultrasound you're having.

Abdominal Ultrasound

  • Do not eat or drink for 6 hours before the test. Having an empty stomach makes it easier to see your gallbladder and internal organs.
  • Take your medications with a sip of water.
  • If you take medication for diabetes, including insulin, ask the doctor who prescribes it for you what to do.

Pelvic Ultrasound

  • Drink 32 to 48 ounces (4 to 6 cups) of water one hour before your ultrasound. Having a full bladder will make it easier to see your uterus and ovaries. Do not urinate before your ultrasound.
  • If close-up views of your uterine lining and ovaries are needed, a transvaginal ultrasound may be done after your pelvic ultrasound.

Transvaginal Ultrasound

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.
  • You will lie down with your legs raised, like during a Pap smear or pelvic exam. Your ultrasound technologist will insert the ultrasound probe, which is shaped like a wand, into your vagina.
  • A transvaginal ultrasound may be used to see the uterine lining and the ovaries.

Combined Abdominal and Pelvic Ultrasound

  • Do not eat solid food for 6 hours before your ultrasound.
  • One hour before your appointment, drink 32 to 48 ounces (4 to 6 cups) of water. Do not urinate before your ultrasound.

Renal Ultrasound

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.

Urinary Bladder Ultrasound

  • Drink 32 ounces (4 cups) of water.
  • Do not urinate before your ultrasound.

Venous Ultrasound (Doppler)

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.
  • This test is used to diagnose blood clots in the legs or arms.

Breast Ultrasound

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.

Scrotal Ultrasound

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.

Carotid Artery Ultrasound

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.
  • This sonogram is used to evaluate blood vessels in the neck, which supply blood to the head.

Thyroid Ultrasound

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.

Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Biopsy or Lymph Node Biopsy

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.
  • The ultrasound is used to guide the placement of a thin needle into the thyroid gland or lymph node. Cells are removed and sent to the laboratory to find out whether any cancerous or other abnormal cells are present.
  • This test may be done safely even if you are taking aspirin or other medications to thin your blood. However, if a large needle will be used for the biopsy, the radiologist performing your procedure will contact you with instructions.

Hysterosonogram

  • You do not need to do anything to prepare.
  • If you still have your period (premenopausal):
    • You should have the exam the first 8 to 12 days after you start your period (menstrual cycle), preferably right after you stop bleeding.
    • Do not have unprotected vaginal sex during the first 12 days of your menstrual cycle.
    • If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, this test cannot be performed.
    • If you have an intrauterine device (IUD), this test cannot be performed.
  • This exam is done to evaluate the lining of the uterus and to look for polyps (growths of tissue).
  • Sterile saline is put into your uterus through a small, soft catheter in your vagina.
  • You will be given instructions to follow after your procedure. For several days, you will need to avoid sexual activity, swimming, and taking baths.