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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Cranial Ultrasound

Why It Is Done

In babies, cranial ultrasound usually is only done:

  • As part of routine screening of babies born prematurely to detect bleeding in the brain, such as intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH).
  • To monitor any complications or to look for periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). IVH and PVL increase a baby's risk of developing disabilities, including cerebral palsy or an intellectual disability.
  • To screen for brain problems that may be present from birth (such as congenital hydrocephalus).
  • To evaluate an enlarging head.
  • To look for infection or abnormal growths in or around the brain.

In adults, cranial ultrasound may be done during brain surgery to help locate a brain mass.

How To Prepare

No special preparation is required before having this test.

If an older baby is having the test, it may help to have the baby be a little hungry. The baby can be fed during the test, which will help the baby to be comforted and to hold still during the test.

How It Is Done

This test is done by a doctor who specializes in interpreting imaging tests (radiologist) or by an ultrasound technologist (sonographer) who is supervised by a radiologist. For a baby, cranial ultrasound may be done at your baby's bedside in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). With the baby lying on his or her back, the transducer is moved across the soft spot (fontanelle) on top of the head. You may be asked to hold your baby during the test. Pictures of the brain and inner fluid chambers (ventricles) can be seen on a video monitor.

For an adult, cranial ultrasound is done during brain surgery to help find a brain mass.

A cranial ultrasound usually takes 15 to 30 minutes.

How It Feels

There is usually no discomfort involved with having a cranial ultrasound test. Unless the gel is first warmed to body temperature, it may feel cold when it is put on the skin.


There are no known risks linked with a cranial ultrasound test.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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