A chest ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to look at the structures and organs in your chest. It can help your health care provider see how well your lungs and heart are working.
A chest ultrasound can look at your lungs, heart, esophagus, mid-chest area (mediastinum), space between the lungs and chest wall (pleural space), and other structures in the chest. Your health care provider may also use ultrasound to see how blood flows through the organs in your chest.
The health care provider uses a device called a transducer to make the images of your chest. The transducer sends out sound waves that bounce off your organs and other structures. The sound waves are too high-pitched for you to hear. The transducer then picks up the bounced sound waves. These are made into pictures of your organs.
Your provider can add another device called a Doppler probe to the transducer. This probe lets your provider hear the sound waves the transducer sends out. He or she can hear how fast blood is flowing through a blood vessel and in which direction it is flowing. No sound or a faint sound may mean that you have a blockage in the flow.
Ultrasound is safe to have during pregnancy because it does not use radiation. It is also safe for people who are allergic to contrast dye because it does not use dye.
You may need a chest ultrasound if your health care provider thinks you have extra fluid in your chest. This is especially true if the amount of fluid is small. The ultrasound can tell your provider if the fluid may be caused by:
A chest ultrasound can also be used to:
Chest ultrasound may be used along with other types of imaging tests to diagnose chest conditions. These other tests include CT scans, X-rays, and MRI.
Your provider may have other reasons to recommend a chest ultrasound.
A chest ultrasound has no risk from radiation. Most people have no discomfort from the transducer moving across the skin.
You may have risks depending on your specific health condition. Be sure to talk with your provider about any concerns you have before the procedure.
Certain things can make a chest ultrasound less accurate. These include:
You may have a chest ultrasound as an outpatient or as part of your stay in a hospital. The way the test is done may vary depending on your condition and your health care provider's practices.
Generally, a chest ultrasound follows this process:
A chest ultrasound is not painful. But you may have some discomfort from having to remain still during the test. The gel will also feel cool and wet. The technologist will use all possible comfort measures and do the scan as quickly as possible to minimize any discomfort.
You do not need any special care after a chest ultrasound. Your health care provider may give you other instructions, depending on your situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know: