Patient Information

Self-Referral Policy

We allow for self-referral for diagnostic ultrasound scans to speed up your care.
However, for your safety and continuity of care, you must be registered with a GP to whom we can send the ultrasound report and inform you of the scan results with your consent. Please provide your GP details at the time of registration.

All self-referral bookings are vetted by our doctors with the clinical history you provide to ensure that the scan is appropriate for your needs. If we feel that the scan is not indicated, we will advise you of an alternative option where possible and any next steps. You will not be charged for this.

All injection or ultrasound-guided treatments require a referral from a healthcare professional such as a doctor, physiotherapist, or podiatrist.

If you are unsure if an ultrasound scan is suitable for your health problem. Please speak to your GP or email us at or call our clinic on 02921999300.

What is ultrasound not good for?

  • Lower back pain and sciatica
  • Looking at bowel
  • Looking at bones for fractures

Preparing for your scan

Most scans do not have any specific preparation other than being appropriately dressed to allow for easy access to the body part/joint being examined with ultrasound.

ABDOMINAL SCANS: fast for 4 hours before. You can take your medications as normal. Please speak to your GP if you are diabetic or become hypoglycaemic, before fasting for the scan to ensure it is safe for you to do so.

During the fast, do not eat Food, milky or fizzy/sugary drinks, chewing gum, or cigarettes.

If you are diabetic, please bring a snack to take after the ultrasound scan.


Full Bladder for Kidney and Bladder Scans

Patients undergoing a renal tract or pelvic scan are asked to fill their bladder. A renal tract ultrasound looks at your kidneys and bladder. If a patient is experiencing bladder symptoms, the bladder needs to be clearly visualized to look at the shape, outline, and contents, to exclude any abnormality or pathology.

Drink approximately 1.5 pints of water an hour in advance of your appointment to ensure the bladder is full enough to see.

Under no circumstances do we want to cause discomfort to our patients and cause an ‘accident’. If a patient informs us that they are desperate and absolutely cannot wait then they are welcome to use our toilets.

Chaperone during scans

During your ultrasound scan, one of our staff members (other than the scanning doctor) who is trained to be a medical chaperone will be also present in the scanning room. We are unable to offer ultrasound scans if you refuse the presence of a chaperone in the room. 

What is included in my scan?

One-to-one consultant scan
Your results will be discussed with you straight after the scan
Copy of your Ultrasound Report
Digital copy of your scan image
Any onward referral to another health professional if required. 

When will I get my results?

The doctor will discuss the results with you straight after the scan. You will also receive a copy of the ultrasound report and images within 24 hours.

Is Ultrasound safe?

Ultrasound is a safe diagnostic test that does not carry radiation. It is also commonly used in pregnancy to visualize the unborn baby.

Who else can attend with me?

Due to COVID working practices, you can bring only one person to accompany you in the scanning/treatment room. 

Patients undergoing a renal tract or pelvic scan are asked to fill their bladder. A renal tract ultrasound looks at your kidneys and bladder. If a patient is experiencing bladder symptoms, the bladder needs to be clearly visualized to look at the shape, outline, and contents, to exclude any abnormality or pathology.

Drink approximately 1.5 pints of water an hour in advance of your appointment to ensure the bladder is full enough to see.

Under no circumstances do we want to cause discomfort to our patients and cause an ‘accident’. If a patient informs us that they are desperate and absolutely cannot wait then they are welcome to use our toilets.

Why do patients need to fast?

Patients undergoing abdominal ultrasound scans need to fast so the doctor can better look at the Gallbladder and Biliary Tree. When you eat the gallbladder releases bile to break down the food in your stomach, and as it is releasing bile it contracts and is no longer easily visualized using ultrasound. When you fast, your gallbladder fills up with bile and then is much more clearly defined during the scan. Many patients referred for upper abdominal scans will have pain and bloating –both possibly associated with the gallbladder, although gallstones may not be the cause it is a routine clinical practice to ensure we see the gallbladder to rule it out.

When you eat, you also swallow air. Too much air can make it difficult to see the abdominal organs.

Fasting Procedure

Fast for four hours prior to your appointment.

This means no: Food, milky or fizzy/sugary drinks, chewing gum, or cigarettes (chewing gum and cigarettes can make you gassy and make it difficult to see your organs)

Patients who are diabetic or hypoglycaemic need to talk to their GP or practice nurse in advance of the appointment to ensure it is okay.

Medication can be taken as normal.

If you are diabetic, please bring a snack to have after your scan.

Do not continue fasting if you feel unwell at any point.

What is a corticosteroid injection?

A corticosteroid (or ‘cortisone’) is an anti-inflammatory medicine, which can be injected directly into the tissues that are causing your symptoms. It is a safer alternative to taking anti-inflammatory medication by mouth. It acts directly in the area injected and is not the same as the steroids taken by bodybuilders or athletes.

What are the benefits –why should you have a corticosteroid injection?

The injection can help to relieve swelling, pain, and stiffness caused by inflammation. This may in turn help you to start your rehabilitation and return to normal activities sooner by ‘breaking the cycle’ of pain and inflammation. It can also be helpful to aid in the diagnosis of your condition if it is not clear what is responsible for your pain. You may also have a local anesthetic injected at the same time, which gives temporary pain relief.

What are the risks?

The possible side effects of the injection are rare and include:

  • flushing of the face for a few hours.
  • a small area of fat loss or change in skin color around the injection site.
  • a temporary increase in pain 24-48 hours after the injection. If you experience increased pain for a longer period of time then please contact us for advice.
  • patients with diabetes may notice a temporary increase in blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, you are advised to check your blood sugar levels for three days post-injection.
  • temporary bruising or bleeding in the injected area, especially if you are taking antiplatelet medicines (such as aspirin) or anticoagulant medicines (such as warfarin).Please advise the team if you are taking any blood thinning medicines.
  • infection: If the area becomes hot, swollen and painful for more than 24 hours, or if you feel generally unwell, you should contact your physiotherapist or doctor immediately. If they are unavailable, you should seek advice from your GP or Emergency Department (A&E).
  • slight vaginal bleeding/menstrual irregularities.
  • allergic reaction to the drug: This will usually happen immediately so you will be asked to wait for a short time after your injection to check for any reactions. If you have any signs of an allergic reaction after you have left the hospital then please seek medical advice.
  • patients with HIV can have side effects if taking certain medications.Beforethe injection we will ensure that this is the most appropriate treatment.

You should not have the injection carried out if you:

  • have any infection in the area to be injected or anywhere else in your body
  • are allergic to local anaesthetic or steroids
  • feel unwell
  • are due tohave surgery in that area soon
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have poorly controlled diabetes
  • do not want the injection.

What happens during the injection?

The benefits and risks of the injection will be explained to you in detail. You will then be placed in a comfortable position. The skin is cleaned with antiseptic. A needle is gently positioned into the affected area and the solution is injected through the needle. A plaster will be placed over the site to keep it clean. A few minutes after the injection you will be examined again.

Will you feel any pain?

The injection is not particularly painful as the doctor is thoroughly trained in this procedure. Sometimes it can be sore for a few hours after the procedure. It is safe for you to continue to take prescribed analgesia during this period.

What happens after the procedure?

If local anaesthetic is also used in the injection, your pain may start to improve within a few minutes; although this may return when it wears off (similar to when you visit the dentist). The steroid usually starts to work after 24-48 hours, but it may take a little longer. The effect of the injection varies from person to person and usually continues to last for about 6weeks. This does not necessarily mean that you will need a second injection,aslong as you follow the advice given to you after the injection.

What you need to do after you go home

Depending on the cause of your pain, you may be asked to rest the area for a short period after the injection. This does not usually mean total rest but refraining from activities that make your pain worse, after which you should try to gradually return to full function. This is to maximize the benefit given by the injection. You may also be shown some exercises to do whileyou are in the clinic, or referred for physiotherapy treatment. If you are having other medical treatment within six weeks, you should tell the treating clinician that you have received a corticosteroid injection.

Will you have a follow-up appointment?

You may be asked to attend a follow-up appointment a few weeks after your injection to check your progress. Sometimes, more than one injection is needed and this can be discussed at this appointment.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)and steroid injections

You may be concerned about coronavirus. We are still learning about this new disease and the way it affects patients who are given some of our drugs. At the moment there is limited information using of steroid injections during the coronavirus pandemic. There is a theoretical risk of a steroid injection making a patient more vulnerable to: getting it; having it longer; and experiencing increased complications. Theoretical means that this could be possible but hasn’t been scientifically proven. Therefore, we will only use steroid injections when considered absolutely necessary by your clinician, and when other safer options have been tried. We understand that you may be in considerable pain and discomfort. If this is the case, the potential benefits of a steroid injection may outweigh the potential risks. If you are at higher risk than others we may suggest delaying the procedure or taking extra precautions, such as self-isolation, on a case by case basis. There is a checklist attached to this leaflet which should be completed prior to your appointment that will help us assess this. Any risk factors will be reviewed by the clinician performing the injection who will check that it is safe to proceed with an injection, after this you may be advised to self-isolate before and/or after the injection if you have other medical conditions. You should not attend if you develop or experience a high fever (more than 37.8C), a persistent cough, or loss of taste or smell. You should not attend if you have recent close contact with a known positive case of coronavirus.If you are worried about having your injection during the pandemic, please contact your referrer. They can discuss options about a new referral once this period is over or if you reconsider your decision to not have the injection during this period.

Coronavirus vaccineand steroid injections

The coronavirus vaccine consists of 2 doses, that can be given 3-4months apart.There is a theoretical risk that steroids might reduce the immune response that is stimulated by vaccines, which means the amount of protection might be reduced. We advise you not to have a steroid injection on the same day as a dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and you should avoid having a steroid injection for at least 2 weeks after a dose of the vaccine. If you are planning on having the vaccine, we advise not to delay being vaccinated while you are waiting for asteroid injection. When you are booking an appointment, please tell the staff if you are planning to have, or have already had, the vaccine. We will schedule the steroid injection to accommodate your vaccine date if necessary.

Acknowledgement: This patient information has been prepared using Leaflet number: 2574/VER7 of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust