Most people are familiar with an ultrasound being utilized during pregnancy or for viewing abdominal disorders; however, you may not have heard of it being used to view the eye.
What is an ultrasound?
It is a machine that utilizes high frequency sound waves (also called sonography) to create images of the inside of the body. The reflections (or echoes) of the sounds waves create the picture. Typically, this would be performed at an ophthalmology office with a specialized ultrasound; however mine was performed at a hospital ER with an ultrasound that can be used on any body part.
How is an ultrasound performed?
You will be in a seated position and asked to close your eyes. Once your eyes are closed, they will place a gel on the top of your eyelids, which will be cold. From there they place the ultrasound wand (transducer) over your eyelid where the gel was placed and ask you to look in specific directions to view all areas of the eye.
There is another specialized eye ultrasound machine in which the eye is numbed with special anesthetic eyedrops and a small probe is placed against your eye to visualize.
What should I do to prepare for an eye ultrasound?
Nothing really. The procedure is non-invasive and only takes minutes if checking for a retinal detachment, but could be 15-30 min if viewing the whole eye. Just recognize the gel will be cool on your eyelid. If they use anesthetic eye drops, this may sting a little when getting administered and lead to extra eye dryness afterwards.
What can an eye ultrasound detect?
This imaging can detect quite a few different abnormalities and this by no means is comprehensive. An eye ultrasound is helpful to detect retinal detachments, cancer of the eye (retinoblastoma or melanoma), bleeding within the eye (vitreous hemorrhages), damage to the bones around the eye, foreign bodies in the eye, or significant swelling (inflammation). Additionally, when patients have cataracts it may be difficult for the back of the eye to be visualized normally due to the cloudiness of the eye so ultrasound may be used.
Image from: https://radiopaedia.org/cases/normal-eye-ultrasound