Radiology – Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound

Ultrasounds are used to create studies of the abdomen, pelvis, head and neck, and muscles and tendons. They are one of the two radiology scanning methods that do not require radiation.

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Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound

Contrast-enhanced ultrasound is an imaging technique that uses microbubbles about the size of a red blood cells along with ultrasound to image organs within your body. It allows the radiologist to better visualize the blood flow to organs and tissues using only ultrasound, and to look for abnormalities. The bubbles dissolve on their own and do not affect the kidneys or harm the body and you, as the patient will not feel anything. Radiation is not used during this exam.

What to Expect

Before the study

You will be scheduled for about an hour visit at Penn State Health Radiology on the East Health Campus or Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. You may need to fast for the exam. 

During the study

The exam is performed in the ultrasound suite, a quiet room in a comfortable environment. An IV will be placed. A sonographer will then take ultrasound images. After the initial images are obtained, you will subsequently receive the contrast agent called Lumason to improve the visualization of organs or blood vessels. Only a small amount of contrast is used, less than a teaspoon. You may receive more than one injection of the contrast agent. At the end of the exam, your IV will be removed and you can resume normal activities.

Benefits

Using contrast can help in 2 ways – 1) to help identify abnormalities in your body (detection) and 2) help to classify what those areas actually are (characterization). 

The contrast agent that is used is safe for your kidneys, using ultrasound has no radiation risks, does not require any specific labs beforehand or screening for medical devices or metal in your body, and is performed in a quiet room. The majority of patients do not need anesthesia or sedation. It is safe for use in children.

Risks

Sulfur hexafluoride lipid (the medical term for the bubbles) or any of the inactive ingredients in Lumason carry a very small risk of an allergic reaction. This risk is very low ― similar to the risk of an allergy from MRI contrast ― and is lower than the risk of allergic reactions to contrast agents used in CT scans.

Common uses of Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound ― adult and pediatric

It can be used to evaluate the: 

  • Liver 
  • Kidneys
  • Bladder, including cystogram and voiding cystourethrogram
  • Endoleak for repaired abdominal aortic aneurysms
  • Musculoskeletal exams
  • Biopsy aids, post-treatment scanning

Insurance Coverage

Contrast enhanced ultrasound is covered by most insurances. View a list of accepted health insurances.