Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound Examination

Patient Leaflets Team

  • Reference Number: HEY-998/2018
  • Departments: Radiology


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your contrast enhanced ultrasound examination. Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team who has been caring for you.

What is a Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound examination?

It is an ultrasound scan which is enhanced by an ultrasound contrast agent and is performed to look in detail at the anatomy of your abdominal organs. This is to determine if there is anything abnormal and to help form a diagnosis or confirm if your anatomy is normal.

How is the examination performed?

You will be asked to lie down on an examination couch in a darkened room. The member of staff undertaking your scan will either be a sonographer or doctor.  Before the procedure starts, the sonographer or doctor will introduce themselves. There may also be an Imaging Support Worker present in the room as well. They are there to provide help and support to you and the sonographer or doctor. You may ask them to leave if you would prefer not to be accompanied.

Your abdomen will need to be exposed. We advise you wear a top and either trousers, shorts or a skirt so that all of your clothing does not need to be removed. A cool gel is placed on your abdomen and a probe is moved over the skin. Gentle pressure is required to obtain the best images. The images are displayed on a monitor which the sonographer or doctor will look at and interpret the findings.

As part of the test you will be given a small injection of an ultrasound contrast agent. The contrast agent used within in ultrasound is known as Sonovue.  Sonovue is a saline solution; it is non-allergenic and is not iodine based. It is unlikely that you will suffer any side-affects from the injection and it will have left your body, via your normal breathing, by the time the examination is completed. Between 2 – 5 ml of the contrast agent will be injected into your arm and will be given through a small cannula placed in your arm. The cannula is removed immediately after the injection. The contrast enhances the images displayed and gives extra information to help with your diagnosis.

Once the examination is completed you will be given tissue to wipe away the gel. We can help you with this if you find it difficult.

Why do I need a Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound examination?

The doctor or healthcare team looking after you has referred you for a contrast enhanced ultrasound examination so that a diagnosis can be given. The scan can detect or confirm abnormal findings but is most often used to reassure you and your doctor that there are no abnormalities present.

You may have had a recent computerised tomography scan (CT) or ultrasound examination. Sometimes this can highlight areas that require more investigation. This is quite common and patients are often referred for a contrast enhanced ultrasound examination to help identify if there are any abnormalities in the body, such as tumours, abscesses or abnormal blood vessels.

Can there be any complications or risks?

There are very few complications or risks to having the contrast enhanced ultrasound examination. The most common side effects (seen in up to 1 in 100 patients) are headache, nausea (feeling sick) and reactions at the injection site. There is a very small risk that the area where the cannula was inserted may bleed following the injection.  As a result of this risk we will ask you to sit and wait in the ultrasound department waiting room for approximately 10 minutes following the examination to ensure that you are well enough to go home.

If you have any concerns regarding pain or bleeding which is not settling, please contact your GP for advice.

How do I prepare for a Contrast Ultrasound examination?

No special preparation is required for the contrast enhanced ultrasound scan. In the majority of cases you do not need to starve or fill your bladder. However, if this is required we will inform you of this on your appointment letter.

What if I am taking warfarin and need an injection?

There is no different preparation or procedure required if you are taking warfarin or any other blood thinning medication.

Can I drive following the examination?

Yes, however we ask for you to remain in the department for approximately 10 minutes following your procedure to make sure you have no immediate side-effects before you leave.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please contact the Ultrasound Department on: (01482) 624044

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and well being and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

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