About this service
Our departments perform many varied examinations, from obstetric scans to complicated interventional procedures.
We perform a variety of ultrasound scans across Warrington Hospital, Halton General Hospital and the Cheshire and Merseyside Treatment centre.
In addition to our main ultrasound scan departments we also have peripheral ultrasound machines located across the trust within the early pregnancy assessment unit, antenatal day unit, antenatal clinic, breast screening, vascular lab and a number of satellite clinics.
Ultrasound scans can be performed by doctors, sonographers or midwife sonographers – All of which are highly qualified members of staff who report their own examinations.
GPs, consultants, nurses and midwives can refer to the service. Sometimes an ultrasound scan may be performed as you attend specialist clinics such as the early pregnancy unit or rapid access pelvic assessment clinic.
Ultrasound imaging, also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, is a method of obtaining pictures or images from inside the human body. It involves sending very high frequency sound waves through the body. These sound waves are reflected off the internal organs. The reflections are then processed by special instruments and powerful computers that subsequently measure and create a visual image of the organs.
Ultrasound images are captured in real time and displayed on a television monitor. Ultrasound has revolutionized the care of women during pregnancy and in the UK is a routine part of antenatal care.
The technology uses the same principle as sonar, used by ships and creatures such as bats and the echo location technique used by dolphins.
An ultrasound examination is a painless, usually non-invasive, procedure. There are several methods of performing the examination depending on the part of the body being examined.
You will be taken into the scanning room and asked to lie on a couch next to the ultrasound machine. You may be able to sit up depending on which part of your body is being scanned. A clear, water-based gel will be spread onto your skin over the scanning site. This helps to transmit the sound waves to the microphone in the transducer.
The Sonographer will press the transducer onto your skin and move it back and forth over the part of your body that is being scanned. The scan will appear on the machine screen, which will be next to you. You will be awake throughout the examination. If you would like to have the image explained to you, just ask. Ultrasound scans are usually quite difficult to interpret if you don’t know what you are looking at. The sonographer may also ask you to take deep breaths in or move into different positions to obtain the best possible images.
Depending on the type of scan being carried out, the examination will usually take between 5 minutes and half an hour. At the end of the scan, the sonographer will provide you with paper towel to wipe the gel from your skin and you will be able to get off the couch and put on any clothes you may have removed. You will be able to go home once the scan is over.
Some types of scan may require the transducer (probe) to be used internally. These are typically transvaginal or transrectal scans. When scanning the female pelvis, a transvaginal approach is offered as it gives superior quality images. For this scan, internal transducer is given a protective cover, lubricated with a small amount of gel and then gently inserted into the vagina up to the cervix to get the best image. It should not cause more than a slight discomfort.
If you wish for a chaperone to be present for any ultrasound examination then please ask and the hospital will provide one. Chaperones are offered, or may already be present for all intimate procedures you have performed in the department.
Ultrasound waves are disrupted by air or gas; therefore ultrasound is not an ideal imaging technique for air-filled bowel or organs obscured by the bowel. In most cases, barium exams, CT scanning, and MRI are the methods of choice for organs such as bowel.
Patients who are overweight or obese are more difficult to image by ultrasound because greater amounts of tissue weaken the sound waves as they pass deeper into the body. This results in images that are blurry and more difficult for the sonographer to see some pathology.
Ultrasound has difficulty penetrating bone and, therefore, can only see the outer surface of bony structures and not what lies within (except in babies who have more cartilage in their skeletons than older children or adults). For visualizing internal structure of bones or certain joints, other imaging modalities such as MRI are typically used.
We understand that often a family’s visit to the ultrasound department can be an exciting time. However patients are respectfully reminded that all scans performed in the ultrasound department are medical examinations and therefore the use of mobile phones or other recording equipment is not permitted. This is to help protect the privacy and dignity of other patients and staff and is supported by the Trust’s mobile communications policy. Any breach of this will result in the trust’s security team being alerted.
Most patients will receive an appointment through the post following a visit to their doctor, nurse or midwife. However sometimes it is necessary for the hospital to contact you directly in order to offer you a short notice appointment. If this happens then the hospital will contact you from a withheld number and may leave a voicemail with instructions to call us back. Failure to respond may extend the time you will have to wait for an appointment.
General ultrasound: 01925 275588
Obstetric (pregnancy): 01925 662311
Finding out the results from your ultrasound examination depends upon the type of ultrasound scan you are having. Sometimes the results of the examination may be delivered immediately or sometimes the results will be made available in around a weeks’ time being delivered to the health care professional that requested the ultrasound. Sometimes ultrasound findings require further clarification and you may require an additional form of imaging such as an Xray, CT scan or MRI scan in order to get a result.