Head and neck ultrasound scan
An ultrasound scan uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the soft tissues in your body. This scan can be used to take images of your face and neck, for example, the salivary or thyroid glands.
An ultrasound scan is simple, quick and comfortable.
There are no known risks to ultrasound imaging. Please let staff know if you think you might be allergic to water-soluble (washes off with water) gel.
Preparing for your ultrasound scan
- Make sure you wear loose-fitting clothing around your neck for the scan. For example, avoid polo neck jumpers or neck ties.
- Your makeup might be disrupted, so please do not wear any, or bring some with you.
- A beard is a barrier to ultrasound waves, so please consider shaving off your beard or trimming it if it covers the area which is being examined.
- Remove jewellery such as earrings, necklaces or studs.
You will not need any injections or special preparations for this scan.
During the ultrasound scan
The scan usually takes about 30 minutes.
- You will be seated in a dental chair.
- Clear water-soluble, hypoallergenic gel will be put on the skin on your face or neck.
- The ultrasound probe is moved gently over the skin of the area being examined.
- The images are displayed on a screen and are viewed by a consultant radiologist (specialist in imaging).
There are paper tissues for you to wipe off the gel when the scan is complete. You can wash your skin in the washroom if needed.
Any gel which might get onto your clothes will wash off easily.
Pain during the scan
This procedure is not painful, but you will need to remain still for the duration of the scan. The gel might feel a bit cold and wet.
After the ultrasound scan
After the scan you can leave hospital immediately.
We recommend that you have a wash to remove any gel off your skin.
No special aftercare is needed. You can eat, drink and continue with all your usual activities.
The consultant will write a report of your scan, and it will be sent to the healthcare professional who referred you.
If you have any problems after your ultrasound scan, you can contact us.
Outside of normal working hours, you should call NHS 111 or go to your nearest emergency department (A&E) if you are worried.
You do not usually have a follow-up appointment in our department, but you might have one with the healthcare professional who referred you.
Other options (alternatives)
An ultrasound scan provides your medical team with better images and more detailed information than other types of imaging.
There are other forms of imaging you can have, but these all involve exposure to X-rays or to more extensive investigations. Some of these tests involve situations that might be triggering if you have a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia). These investigations might also take some time to be arranged, and so could delay your treatment.
Giving your permission (consent)
We want to involve you in decisions about your care and treatment. If you decide to have an ultrasound scan, you will be asked to sign a consent form. This states that you understand what the treatment involves and agree to have it.
If you would like more information about our consent process, please speak to a member of staff caring for you.
Resource number: 3071/VER5
Last reviewed: November 2023
Next review due: November 2026