Ultrasound

Ultrasound is a diagnostic procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of bones, joints, blood vessels and internal organs. Our experts are taking ultrasound technology to new levels—using the most advanced machines and pioneering techniques to analyze arthritic joints, detect thyroid tumors and assess liver disease. We provide an accurate diagnosis so you can get started on the right treatment plan for you.

Types of Ultrasounds

Our radiology department offers a wide range of ultrasound for all parts of the body. (Pregnancy and vascular ultrasounds are performed in the OB and vascular departments, not in the radiology department.) Our exams include:

  • Musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasounds: Analyze the movements of muscles and joints
  • Contrast ultrasounds: Advanced technology used to provide images of abdominal organs and to identify and assess liver lesions

Ultrasound: Why Choose Us?

When you come to the Washington University Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, you will find:

  • High volume: We perform nearly 20,000 ultrasounds each year. This high volume of patients gives our radiologists the experience and expertise to spot even the smallest abnormalities, leading to an earlier, more accurate diagnosis.
  • Experienced team: All of the radiologists in our ultrasound department are certified subspecialists with advanced training in performing and reading ultrasounds. Many are pioneers in the field who helped develop new techniques for MSK ultrasound of joints and ultrasound testing for thyroid tumors. Meet our radiology team.
  • Advanced technology: We have 11 ultrasound machines—all with the latest technology available. This includes a shear wave elastography machine capable of performing complex contrast ultrasounds to analyze liver lesions. Barnes-Jewish Hospital is one of the few facilities in the St. Louis region with this capability.
  • Pioneering treatments: We have 3 physicians who work exclusively with MSK ultrasound of the joints to diagnose or track the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. This detailed test is not available anywhere else in the St. Louis region. We also perform contrast ultrasounds to analyze liver lesions—a safer and faster alternative to MRI, CT or an invasive liver biopsy.

Ultrasound: What to Expect

Here’s what to expect when you come in for your ultrasound appointment:

  • Who will perform the test: All radiology ultrasounds at Barnes-Jewish Hospital are performed by a highly trained, registered sonographer, an ultrasound radiologist resident and the ultrasound attending radiologist.
  • Prepping the area: We will apply a warm, hypoallergenic, water-soluble gel to your skin on the area to be imaged.
  • How the test is performed: We press the transducer against your skin and move it over the area(s) being examined. This wand-like device detects sound waves and converts them into real-time images that can be viewed on a screen.
  • What the test shows: Ultrasound produces real-time images that reveal movement, such as blood flowing through blood vessels or movement of tendons. 

Preparing for Your Ultrasound Appointment

Before you come in for an ultrasound, please follow this checklist:

  • Arrive early: Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment to allow for registration time.
  • Please bring the following documents with you:
    • Photo ID (driver’s license or state ID)
    • Insurance card(s)
  • Medications: If you are scheduled for a biopsy, paracentesis or thoracentesis, please bring an updated list of all current medications to your appointment. Take your medications as you normally do, unless your referring physician has told you otherwise.
  • Food and drink: We may give you instructions about whether you can eat or drink anything before your exam.
    • For an ultrasound of any upper abdominal areas including gallbladder, pancreas, liver, spleen, kidney and aorta: Do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours prior to your exam.
    • For an ultrasound of the pelvis: You will need to have a full bladder. Please drink six 8-oz glasses of liquid. Finish drinking this liquid one hour prior to your exam. Do not empty your bladder before the exam.
    • For an ultrasound of an extremity or thyroid: There is no preparation.
  • Be prepared to discuss your medical history: We may ask you about current medications, allergies and any previous surgeries.

Contact Us

New patients: To schedule an appointment, please call 314.362.7111 or toll free at 877.992.7111. Please note: You or your referring physician will need to provide a referral order before your appointment.

Current ultrasound patients: Please call the ultrasound department at 314.454.8885 with any questions about your ultrasound exam. Get all the patient information you need, including additional contact information and maps to our locations.

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