What is Ultrasound Gel?

Ultrasound gel is a clear, thick gel used for taking ultrasound images.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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Ultrasound gel is a type of conductive medium that is used in ultrasound diagnostic techniques and treatment therapies. It is placed on the patient’s skin at the beginning of the ultrasound examination or therapy. The transducer, which is the device used to send and receive sound waves, is then placed on top of it. Ultrasound gel is also used with a fetal Doppler, which can be employed to allow parents and doctors to listen to the heart beat of an unborn child.

Many doctors, hospitals, clinics, and other facilities use ultrasound technology for diagnostic purposes. It works by passing sound waves into a person’s body. Once there, they don’t remain for long. Instead, they bounce off the organ or other part of the body the doctors are trying to view. The sound waves then move back through the transducer, and they are ultimately analyzed by a computer, which allows the analyzed sound waves to be viewed on a monitor or even printed out for doctor or patient use.

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An ultrasound may be used to diagnose tumors and abnormal growths. It often plays a critical role in the early detection of cancers, and it can be used to distinguish benign masses from those that are likely malignant, indicating whether further testing is necessary. Ultrasound technology is also used to take images of a developing baby while it is still inside its mother’s uterus. This can help doctors determine whether it is developing normally or not; it can even allow medical professionals to see how the blood is flowing in the fetal organs. Sometimes ultrasounds are used to introduce sound waves to a person’s body for the purpose of producing heat that is said to relieve pain.

There are some things that act as impediments to ultrasound waves. For example, ultrasounds are not effective techniques for imaging through bone. Air and other gases also impede sound waves, so medical professionals must use something to prevent the formation of air bubbles between the transducer and the patient’s skin. This is where ultrasound gel comes in. It serves to prevent air bubbles from forming and helps conduct sound waves from the transducer and into the patient’s body.

Ultrasound gel is typically clear and thick, but not uncomfortably sticky. When it is applied to the skin, it doesn’t dribble or drip off. It adheres to the skin lightly until it is wiped off at the end of the procedure. The most common complaint about ultrasound gel is that it is cold. For this reason, many medical professionals use special warmers to make their gel a more comfortable temperature before applying it to a patient’s skin.

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anon240194
Post 4

had an ultrasound today and the gel was applied to my breasts. I was supposed to wash the breasts before breast feeding but my God I forgot to! I have breastfed my baby after few hours! Would anyone know if the gel is dangerous to the baby? Thanks so much.

musicshaman
Post 3

I had heard that they actually have something called an ultrasound gel pad as well.

I don't think that it's used too often in pregnancy ultrasounds, since most people still seem to use the gel, but I know that some of the more progressive doctors are starting to use them.

The pads are almost like those gel eyemasks -- it's a thin plastic pad with the gel for the ultrasound in the middle. That way the woman doesn't have to have the ultrasound gel directly on her skin, which is more comfortable for many women.

Also, the pads are reusable, which makes it a good choice for physicians. I have actually thought about incorporating them into my practice -- has anybody reading this done so, can you tell me if they're worth the investment?

FirstViolin
Post 2

@pleats -- That sounds horrible! What a mean obstetrician. My guy was always really nice when we did ultrasounds, he had some sort of ultrasound gel warmer that he used before he put it on my stomach, so my ultrasounds were always really nice and relaxing.

I'm sorry you had to put up with such a jerk -- you should have been able to enjoy seeing your baby, not having to worry about flinching from the cold gel for the ultrasound!

If you plan on having any more babies, get another doctor -- seriously, you don't have to put up with that.

pleats
Post 1

Ooh, that stuff is creepy to me. I know it's not a big deal, and I know that most women have ultrasound transmission gel on them when they're pregnant, but I always hated it!

It was so cold and gross, just like putting a frozen jelly on your stomach. I would always flinch because it was so cold, and the doctor would fuss at me to stay still. Needless to say, that was one of my least favorite parts about being pregnant!

So although sterile ultrasound gel is not uncomfortably sticky in itself, I think that a lot of women feel like I do about it -- the whole situation is uncomfortable, not just the gel!

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