Pediatric Ultrasound

What is an ultrasound?

A pediatric ultrasound uses sound waves to produce images of the organs and soft tissues inside the body that can be viewed live on a computer screen. The human ear cannot hear these echoes, so a special wand called a transducer is used.

The ultrasound machine looks like a large computer on wheels. The transducer is attached to the machine. The images are viewed live and continually on the computer screen. While viewing the images live, the Ultrasound Technologist will take a series of "static" or still images or pictures, to send to the radiologist (X-ray doctor) to read.

What should you do prior to the exam?

There are different preparations to follow according to your child's age and the part of the body being examined. Please pay close attention to the following instructions:

Abdomen (complete or limited exam)

Your child cannot have anything to eat or drink before the study. The number of hours that your child cannot eat depends on your child’s age. The times are as follows:

  • Infants: 2 to 3 hours
  • 1 to 4 years old: 3 to 4 hours
  • 5 to 10 years old: 5 to 6 hours
  • 11 years and older: 8 hours

Renal, bladder, and pelvic exam

kidney ultrasound Kidney ultrasound There are no food restrictions prior to the exam. Your child must have a full bladder in order for the exam to be performed. Have your child drink as follows:

  • Infants to 2 years old: Liquid feeding one hour prior to the appointment. Bring an extra juice or formula bottle to give your baby during the exam.
  • 3 to 5 years old: Give your child as much to drink as possible (at least 8 ounces) one half hour before the appointment. Do not let your child empty her bladder before the exam.
  • 6 to 10 years old: Give your child at least 16 to 24 ounces to drink 45 to 60 minutes before the appointment. Do not let your child empty his bladder before the exam.
  • 11 and older: Give your child 32 ounces of fluid to drink one hour before the appointment. Do not let your child empty her bladder before the exam.

Hip exam

Restrictions for children ages 2 weeks to 6 months (does not apply to follow up hip study):

  • Breast-fed babies: feed one half hour before the exam
  • Bottle-fed babies: Do not give your child anything to eat or drink two hours before the exam. Bring along a bottle of juice or formula.

There are no special preparations needed for the following exams:

  • Spine
  • Arms and Legs
  • Brain
  • Thyroid
  • Scrotum
  • Soft tissue masses

Dress your child comfortably, in clothes that are easily removed. Your child may be given a gown to change into for the procedure.

Your child will be lying down on a bed while having the ultrasound. You may want to bring a stuffed animal or special blanket for your child to hold during the exam.

Note: Parents will be allowed to accompany their child into the exam room. It may be helpful to make other arrangements for siblings.

If you have copies of your child's previous imaging studies from another institution, please bring them for comparison.

What should you expect during the exam?

Most ultrasound exams take approximately 30 minutes.

  • The technologist will ask why the ultrasound is being done and will explain the procedure to you and your child.
  • Depending on the part of the body being examined, the technologist may ask your child to change into a gown or remove clothing to expose the area to be examined.
  • The technologist will then ask your child to lie on the exam bed and, if needed, will give your child a towel or blanket to keep warm. Then the technologist will turn off the lights in the room. This will make the pictures on the computer screen easier to see.
  • The technologist will put a warm lotion on the transducer and also on the part of your child's body that is going to have the ultrasound. The lotion is clear, easily removable with water, and does not stain clothing. The technologist will glide the transducer over the parts of the body that the doctor wants to see. If your child wants to have special "see-through" vision of their body, he can look at the images on the computer screen.

An ultrasound, or sound wave, is painless. Your child will feel the transducer and the lotion slide around on the area being examined. The lotion used is like a "tickle jelly" that might make your child laugh a little.

The images that are sent to the radiologist are a sampling of "static" images. After reviewing them, the radiologist may want to perform the ultrasound exam herself briefly, to view the area being studied live or in real time.

If you’d like, our child life specialists will help you prepare and support your child during the procedure. We can also arrange to have a child life specialist at your child's appointment to explain the procedure in developmentally appropriate ways and to help your child better cope with the stress of the hospital experience.

What should you do after the exam?

There are no special instructions for your child to follow when the exam is over.

Test results

The images from your child's exam are interpreted on the same day and a report is sent to your physician's office.

Your physician may call 215-590-2584 with questions about the exam.

Here is an example of what your child's exam may look like.