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Breast Ultrasound

Last updated March 28, 2017

Nevit Dilmen

Ultrasound image showing Invasive Ductal Carcinoma of Breast (NOS). 19mm.


Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Breast Ultrasonography
  • Breast USG
  • Ultrasound Scan of Breast

What is Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure? (General Explanation)

  • An Ultrasound Scan of Breast is a non-invasive imaging procedure that uses sound waves to generate images of the breast
  • The use of Doppler technique allows the sonographer to visualize the presence or absence of blood flow
  • The procedure uses no ionizing radiation

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

A Breast Ultrasound is used to examine the tissues of the breast.

Why is the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure Performed?

Common reasons the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure is performed include:

  • Characterizing a mass in the breast
  • Following an abnormal mammogram test report
  • Screening in “dense breast” tissue

What are the Alternatives Choices for the Procedure?

In some cases, a breast MRI study can be performed as an alternative to an ultrasound scan.

What is the Equipment used? (Description of Equipment)

The equipment used for Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure may involve:

  • An ultrasound scanner, which resembles a computer with an attached transducer
  • The ultrasound transducer is like a television remote
  • Ultrasound gel (commonly pre-warmed)

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

There are no recent advances for a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure.

What is the Cost of performing the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

The cost of a Breast Ultrasound procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused with a sudden inflow of information regarding a Breast Ultrasound procedure and what needs to be done
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist in recommending another physician
  • Also, if the procedure involves multiple steps or has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one. They can also choose to approach another physician independently

What are some Helpful Resources?

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/breast-ultrasound.html (accessed on 2/14/2017)

Prior to Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure:

How does the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure work?

A Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure works in the following manner:

  • The ultrasound procedure works on similar principles used in sonar by submarines, to determine the size and shape of the object and how far away the object is
  • The transducer sends out high frequency sound waves in the body. When sound waves echo back from the body, the microphone in the transducer records the changes in the sound
  • And using the changes in the sound, it is possible to determine the shape, size, or any other changes in the structure of the organ
  • The image generated is a result of both distance and the consistence of the object (fluid vs solid vs air)
  • Using the change in the echoed sound, a computer produces a picture in real-time on the screen. The recorded information, which is reconstructed into an image, is interpreted by the radiologist

How is the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure Performed?

A Breast Ultrasound is performed in the following manner:

  • The individual is asked to sit on the examination table
  • A small amount of gel will be applied to the breast to improve the contact between the transducer and the skin
  • A water-based gel is applied on the transducer so that transducer can have better contact with the area and air pockets are eliminated between the transducer and body
  • The sonographer puts the transducer on the breast and moves it around the area of interest, to capture the desired image
  • Once the images are captured, a radiologist reviews the results; if required, additional images may also be acquired

Where is the Procedure Performed?

A Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure generally takes place as an outpatient procedure at a hospital.

Who Performs the Procedure?

An ultrasound technologist (sonographer) performs the exam under the supervision of a radiologist.

How long will the Procedure take?

The duration of each study may vary, but in general, a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure takes less than 30 minutes.

Who interprets the Result?

A radiologist interprets the results of the procedure and inform the healthcare provider, who will in turn communicate the results to the patient.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

The following preparations are needed prior to a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure:

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the overall health status of the patient, including information related to the medications that are currently being taken
  • Do inform the medical professional if you have a history of any medical conditions, such as a heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or kidney disease
  • Patients should inform their physician, if they are allergic to any medication
  • Women should inform their physicians if they are breastfeeding, pregnant, or if there is a chance that they might be pregnant

What are the Benefits versus Risks for the procedure?

Following are the benefits of the procedure:

  • It is non-invasive
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Relatively quick and efficient procedure
  • No ionizing radiation is involved

Following are the risks of the procedure:

  • There is only a minimal risk involved
  • The abnormality may not be visible using ultrasound imaging studies, thus requiring additional procedures
  • Very rarely, the ultrasound gel can irritate the skin

What are the Limitations to this procedure?

Following are the limitations of the procedure:

  • Many lesions are not visible on ultrasonography, requiring additional imaging
  • Additionally, a biopsy may be necessary, to further characterize any abnormalities
  • In general, ultrasounds cannot be used to replace an annual screening mammogram procedure

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for the Breast Ultrasound procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your healthcare provider or physician are as follows:

  • What is a Breast Ultrasound procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed?
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place during recovery?
  • What are the possible side effects from the procedure? How can I minimize these side effects?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure:

What is expected during the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

The following may be expected during the procedure:

  • Generally, no pain is felt during the procedure
  • The gel is typically warmed prior to application, but may still feel cold on the skin

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

No anesthesia is administered during a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

The risks from a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure are minimal in a vast majority of cases.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

No post-operative care is needed following a Breast Ultrasound procedure.

After the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure:

What is to be expected after the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

In general, there are no complications from a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure.

When do you need to call your Physician?

A Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure is an uncomplicated procedure that does not pose any risk to women.

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

No post-operative care is needed following a Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure.

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

No recovery time is needed following the radiology procedure.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

A Breast Ultrasound procedure does not involve the removal of any body tissue.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out during the Procedure?

Since no tissue is removed during the procedure, a pathologist does not get involved in the care of the patient.

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Breast Ultrasound radiology procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The hospital, where the procedure is performed
  • Healthcare providers, physicians, and radiologists, who are involved in the process

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before a Breast Ultrasound procedure is performed.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 28, 2017
Last updated: March 28, 2017

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