Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves and their echoes to make cross-sectional images of the inside of your child's body. Ultrasound machines produce no radiation and exams are painless.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches ultrasound

The Department of Radiology's Ultrasound Program is designed, equipped, and staffed to obtain high-quality ultrasound images of infants and children of any size who have a variety of medical and surgical conditions. Our program features:

  • highly trained pediatric radiologists with expertise in performing and interpreting ultrasound studies in infants and children of all ages
  • pediatric sonographers with years of experience
  • in conjunction with the Maternal Fetal Care Center at Boston Children's, radiologists and technologists who care for infants and children on a daily basis also perform fetal ultrasound examinations.

How should I prepare my child for an ultrasound?

Most ultrasound studies require no special preparation. However, some exams do require special preparation, such as an empty stomach or full bladder. The examinations that require preparation are listed below. If these guidelines are not followed, your child's examination may be delayed.

Abdominal ultrasound

  • Less than 1 year old: No feedings for two hours prior to the exam
  • 1-4 years old: Nothing to eat or drink for four hours prior to the exam
  • Over 5 years old: Nothing to eat or drink for six hours prior to the exam (the last meal should be a low-fat meal)

Pelvic ultrasound

  • Less than 3 Years old: Encourage fluids
  • 3-6 years old: 8 to 16 ounces of water finished 30 minutes prior to exam time
  • 7-11 years old: 24 ounces of water finished 45 minutes prior to exam time
  • Over 12 years old: 32 ounces of water finished 45 minutes prior to exam time

Renal ultrasound

Generally, no preparation is required. However, if symptoms include hematuria (blood in the urine), we will want to scan your child with a full bladder. Fluids should be encouraged in this situation and your child should not empty his bladder prior to his exam. Follow pelvic ultrasound preparation above. If symptoms include hypertension, this examination requires an empty stomach. Please follow the abdominal preparation.

What should I expect when I bring my child to the hospital for an ultrasound?

When you arrive, please go to the Ultrasound check-in desk on the second floor of the main hospital or the Radiology check-in desk at our Waltham, Lexington, Peabody, or South Weymouth facilities. An ambulatory service representative will check in your child and verify his registration information.

What happens during the ultrasound?

  • You and your child will be escorted into one of our scanning rooms.
  • You are encouraged to stay with your child the entire time.
  • Most patients will not be asked to remove their clothing.
  • The sonographer will position your child on the examination table, move his clothing aside, and place some warm gel on the area of his body being imaged.
  • The sonographer will place a transducer, which is shaped a bit like a microphone, on the area of your child's body that is being examined and move it around in order to take the pictures.
  • Your child will be encouraged to lie as still as possible.
  • Once the pictures are made, the sonographer will review them with one of our pediatric radiologists. In some cases, the radiologist will scan your child as well.

Depending on the examination, scanning takes between 20 and 40 minutes.

What happens after the ultrasound?

The radiologist reviews your child's images and creates a written report of the findings and diagnosis.

How do I learn the results of the ultrasound?

The radiologist will provide a report to the doctor who ordered your child's ultrasound.

Contact us

Department of Radiology