December 4, 2023Read More
Many people associate ultrasounds with pregnancy, but healthcare practitioners use ultrasounds in many different situations. Ultrasounds help your practitioner visualize soft tissue structures, including organs, inside the body to better visualize shape, development or irregularities.
Ultrasounds are performed by professionals at hospitals, medical facilities and clinics specializing in imaging services. If you live in Toronto or the GTA and have received a requisition for an ultrasound, here’s a breakdown of what to know before your appointment:
A healthcare practitioner may refer you for an ultrasound to explore the reasons behind any symptoms like internal pain in a certain region or to determine the size or shape of a mass.
There are many different types of ultrasounds, depending on the location of the pain or patient concern. Some examples include:
Ultrasound technology uses sound waves to capture images of structures inside the body and is better at viewing soft tissue, like organs, rather than bones. Ultrasound technology is considered safe when used by a trained technician and is approved for use by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
In some cases, your healthcare practitioner will require additional information to diagnose an illness or explore a concern in more depth and will provide you with a referral that allows you to receive an ultrasound.
A referral is a paper requisition form that your doctor fills out, indicating the type of ultrasound requested and any other important details, such as the exact location where an ultrasound will capture images. For example, if you receive a requisition for a breast ultrasound, your referring physician will pinpoint the area of concern on a diagram.
Ultrasound clinics and imaging departments at hospitals do not provide walk-in services, so you’ll need to make an appointment. You’ll need to bring your requisition form and Ontario health card to the appointment. Your primary care provider or medical office assistant will likely be familiar with imaging clinics in their area. They may be able to assist you in finding a clinic.
Here’s a list of some imaging clinics in Toronto and the GTA that offer ultrasounds:
Wait times for ultrasounds have increased over the last 7 years. In 2022, it took, on average, almost five weeks to receive an ultrasound. With these wait times in mind, don’t be surprised if you have to wait a few weeks for your appointment. Ultrasound clinics are often busiest during lunch or before and after 9-5 working hours, so if you can go during off-peak times, that may increase your chances of being seen sooner. Try calling a few different clinics to determine which one can give you the earliest appointment
Ultrasounds can be specialized to cover many different health concerns, so the type of ultrasound you get depends on the health concern you and your doctor are exploring. Ultrasound technology can examine soft-tissue structures, like the bladder, major joints, like the hips, or can guide certain procedures, as with a breast biopsy ultrasound.
There are 3 major types of ultrasounds, including
Some types of ultrasounds are highly specialized. Those used in conjunction with biopsies, echocardiograms and pediatric ultrasounds may require specific procedures and equipment. Not every Toronto ultrasound clinic will offer all types of ultrasounds, so be sure to check that the clinic you’ve chosen can fulfill your requisition.
Your practitioner will refer you for a 2D or traditional ultrasound. This type of ultrasound captures flat, two-dimensional images that allow your practitioner to assess the internal structures of your body. They are just as effective as 3D ultrasounds, which combine the images captured by a traditional ultrasound into a three-dimensional image, or 4D ultrasounds, which go one step further to produce a video.
Ontario healthcare (i.e., OHIP) covers ultrasound imaging, except for 3D and 4D ultrasounds, which are considered elective. To qualify for OHIP coverage, you must bring a valid health card and your requisition form to your appointment. In Ontario, you can pay for an ultrasound if you don’t have a valid health card, but you will still require a referral from your doctor.
During pregnancy, expectant parents may choose to get a 3D or 4D ultrasound. The price of these elective ultrasounds varies but 3D ultrasounds in Toronto and the GTA range in price from around $100 to over $300 for multiple images or packages of visits.
Ultrasounds require some preparation, but exactly how to prepare can differ depending on the ultrasound you’ll be getting. It’s wise to call ahead to confirm if you:
Don’t forget to bring your requisition form to your ultrasound appointment because this documentation communicates which type of exam you require and makes the check-in process easier and faster. You may also want to wear loose and comfortable clothing that’s easy to take on and off because many ultrasounds require you to remove certain items of clothing to capture the necessary images.
If you have questions about what happens during and after your ultrasound appointment, you can call ahead to ask the clinic:
After your appointment, the imaging clinic will have your results sent to a radiologist to review and provide a report. That written report outlines the specific findings of the imaging and will be sent to your referring practitioner along with the images to review with you at a follow-up appointment.
Many patients want to see the results of their ultrasound as fast as possible. You can access your ultrasound imaging and report right away through PocketHealth, sometimes even before the follow-up appointment with your practitioner. Access your records here.
PocketHealth enables you to securely access, share and store your imaging and other health information in one place. PocketHealth ReportReader can help you better understand the medical terms in your ultrasound report and feel more prepared to discuss the results at your follow-up appointment.
Knowledge is powerful, especially when it comes to your health. You may have been referred for an ultrasound to help your doctor diagnose an illness, explore a medical concern or ensure your pregnancy is developing as expected. Understanding the procedure can help you prepare for your ultrasound appointment and follow-up, and more confidently discuss your findings with your healthcare practitioner.