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Frequently Asked Questions

Ultrasound

What is ultrasound?
An ultrasound scan is a painless test that uses sound waves to make images of organs and structures inside your body. The ultrasound travels freely through fluid, but bounces back when the waves hit a more solid surface. As the waves bounce back, they create a moving picture that we can save as a video recording or as still pictures.

We get you to lie down on a bed next to our ultrasound machine. We place an ultrasound probe (special camera) on the skin over the part of your body being examined. The probe comes in different sizes depending on the type of scan we are doing. Most often it looks like a very large, thick, blunt pen. We coat your skin with a water-based gel. This helps the probe make good contact with your body and helps transmit the sound waves.

Ultrasound is used in many situations. We use it to look at abdominal and pelvic organs, the heart, blood vessels, soft tissues and the developing unborn baby (fetus). We can also use it to help guide a needle into a cyst or mass.

Who will be performing my ultrasound test?
A Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (Ultrasound Technologists) or a Radiologist (doctor specializing in medical imaging) performs your exam.

Since we are a training facility, you may have a Sonography Student or Radiology Resident involved in parts of your exam.

How long does an ultrasound take?
The test can take from 15 to 60 minutes depending on which parts of the body we are scanning. Some tests take longer.  Please read the instructions for your specific ultrasound test carefully.

Where are you located?
Providence Health Care Radiology offers ultrasound services at both St. Paul’s and Mount Saint Joseph’s Hospitals.    Use a map to find us.

St. Paul’s is located at 1081 Burrard Street. To find the department, follow the red line from the main entrance on Burrard Street to the Ultrasound Department. We are located on Level two of the Providence building.

Mount Saint Josephs is located at 3080 Prince Edward Street. From the main entrance, take a left past the gift shop and check in at the Radiology front desk.

What services do you offer?
We perform all types of ultrasound scans at both our sites. We can examine all parts of the body, most commonly the abdomen, pelvis, blood vessels, and the pregnant uterus.  Specifically at St. Paul's Hospital, we do ultrasounds of muscles and tendons.   At Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital, we do ultrasounds of the breast as well as the heart (echocardiography).

Can I show up anytime I like?
No, you have to book an appointment.

How do I book my ultrasound appointment?
Your doctor’s office books your appointment for you. The doctor's office staff lets you know the date and time you should arrive.   

We offer appointments between 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM Monday to Friday at both sites.  If you have any questions please phone one of our offices:

St. Paul’s Ultrasound at 604-806-8161
Mount St. Joseph’s Radiology at 604-877-8323

Can I book my own appointment?
Yes, as long as you have a requisition (a written order form) from your doctor requesting the ultrasound test.   We accept requisitions from any private clinic or public hospital.   If you have any questions please phone one of our offices:

St. Paul’s Ultrasound at 604-806-8161
Mount St. Joseph’s Radiology at 604-877-8323

What if the St. Paul’s Emergency Department ordered my test?
One of our clerks calls you at home to set up a time for your test. Please call 604-806-8161 if a clerk has not called you by 2 p.m. the day after you leave Emergency.

Can I rebook my appointment?
Yes. If you are not able to keep your appointment, please call us as soon as possible:

St. Paul’s Ultrasound - 604-806-8161
Mount St. Joseph’s Radiology - 604-877-8323

Please give us at least 24 hours notice so we can use your time for someone else. When you call, we will give you another date and time for your test.

Can my child have an ultrasound test in your department?
No, these are done at B.C. Children’s Hospital. Please contact them at 604-875-2345 for more information.

How do I prepare for my ultrasound test?
Usually, there is no special preparation needed. Unless you are instructed otherwise, you should eat and drink normally before and after the test.

Special preparations can include:

  • Eating a low fibre or fat-free diet a day or so before the test if you are having certain parts of your abdomen scanned.
  • Not eating for several hours before a test for some scans of the abdomen.
  • Having a full bladder for scans of your bladder or pelvis.

Please see the instructions for specific ultrasound tests for more details.

Are there risks to having an ultrasound?
Ultrasound scans are painless and safe. Ultrasound uses sound waves not radiation. The benefits of ultrasound outweigh any potential harm.

For more details on the guidelines for the safe use of ultrasound, please see the statement from Health Canada

Can I get a 3D video of my baby?
No, not from us. We only do ultrasounds that are specifically requested by doctors (diagnostic or medical ultrasound) at Providence Health Care.

We follow the guidelines regarding entertainment ultrasound (non-diagnostic or non-medical ultrasound) endorsed by our professional societies. Please visit the CSDMS for more information.

Can I have an ultrasound picture of my baby and is there a charge?
At the patient’s request, two images taken of the baby during the ultrasound test can be printed on one piece of paper. There is no charge for these pictures.

Can I bring someone into the examination room with me?
Our exam rooms are quite small. Only one of your family members may stay in the ultrasound room if you:

  • Are having ultrasounds for your pregnancy (obstetrical ultrasound).
  • Need help getting onto the ultrasound bed.
  • Suffer from a mental illness (psychiatric disorder) or are mentally challenged or disabled.
  • Do not speak English. Please select interpreter services.


Do we offer childcare services?
No, we do not have childcare services on site. If you must bring a young child with you, please bring someone to care for the child while you are having the test. They must remain in the waiting room during the test.

If we are doing an ultrasound of your pregnancy, your child and family member can join you for a brief look at the unborn baby (fetus).

Can I take pictures or videotape in the ultrasound exam room, and will I be able to use my cellular phone in the department?
No type of photography (including video camera) is allowed in the exam room at all by you or your family member.

In consideration of others, please turn off cell phones while in the Ultrasound Department.

Can I find out the sex of my baby during the test?
At the time of a routine full fetal anatomical assessment, you will be asked if you wish to know the sex of the fetus. A reasonable attempt will be made by the ultrasound technologist (sonographer) to assess fetal genitalia. However, exam time will not be extended for the sole purpose of determining fetal sex. There are many factors that can make it difficult to see the sex including the baby's position, amniotic fluid volume (the fluid around the baby), and your body size and shape. Patients should be aware that there is a chance of error in ultrasound sex determination. Please note that the sonographer is not allowed to release any information about the examination directly to you. In accordance with Ministry of Health policy, the findings will be reported and you may request this information from your referring physician. Please be advised that repeat exams will not be scheduled for the sole purpose of determining fetal sex.


Can I have an ultrasound just to find out the sex of my baby?
No, we only do ultrasound scans when requested by a doctor. Doing an ultrasound just to find out the sex of a baby is not considered a necessary medical exam.

When will my doctor get my report?
We send your ultrasound test results to your doctor as soon as possible. If your doctor does not have your results within two weeks, please ask your doctor to contact us.

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