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An ultrasound screening, also called a sonogram, is a diagnostic technique which uses sound waves to develop ultrasound images of the inside of the body.  An ultrasound utilizes an instrument called a transducer to emit high-frequency sound, and records the echoes of those waves to determine the shape and consistency of soft tissues and organs. It is a painless procedure most commonly associated with viewing a fetus during pregnancy, but it has important applications for the diagnosis of urological issues and disease as well.

Ultrasound imaging in urology is chiefly used to examine the bladder, kidneys, scrotum, and prostate. For most of these procedures you will be asked to lie on a table, while a clear water-based gel is applied to the area to be examined. Using the transducer, which is moved around to capture different images of the sound wave reflections.

The most common reason for a bladder ultrasound is to assess bladder emptying disorders, which can be caused by conditions such as an enlarged prostate or urethral stricture, or to visualize abnormalities such as tumors or stones in the bladder.

If a prostate ultrasound is indicated there is specially designed probe placed in the rectum.  The most common indication for a prostate ultrasound (also known as a transrectal ultrasound) is to evaluate men considered at risk for prostate cancer. Because early prostate cancer cannot be reliably diagnosed by the ultrasound appearance of the prostate alone, the study is usually performed in association with a simultaneous prostate biopsy. Another common indication for ultrasound is obtaining the volume or size of the prostate for treatment planning purposes.

Urologic ultrasound can also be used in evaluation of fertility, identifying abnormalities of seminal vesicles, prostate, and testes. It may be used in women’s health services to examine the female urethra using a transvaginal probe for in order to diagnose abnormalities.