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Ultrasound of the Eye

The Ultrasound Department within the Retina Service provides a number of diagnostic imaging services for physicians who refer patients to us for these tests.

Telephone: 617-573-3282

A B-scan ultrasound uses sound waves to produce a diagnostic image. This is done as the sound waves propagate through tissues, bounce off of tissue interfaces, and return to the transducer. The ultrasound unit then converts the sound energy to electrical energy and an image is displayed. The patient has their eyes closed and the probe, with eye gel on it, is gently placed over the eyelid. Ultrasound is noninvasive, and the exam is painless. Dilation is not required. The exam takes about 10 minutes.

An axial length ultrasound, also known as biometry, is an open lid exam. This test measures the length of the eyes so that when a cataract is removed from the eye, the proper replacement lens (Intraocular Lens Implant) can be calculated. A numbing drop is placed in the eye so that the patient does not feel the exam being performed. A plastic eye shield is placed under the lids and sterile saline is placed in the cup. Then, the ultrasound probe is placed in the saline to produce a series of one-dimensional echoes, which measures the length of the eye. Both eyes are always measured for comparison. Dilation is not required. This exam takes approximately 10 minutes.

A UBM exam, ultrasound biomicroscopy, is an anterior segment view of the eye. The cornea, iris, and ciliary body are viewed with this type of ultrasound. This is an open lid exam. A numbing drop is placed in the eye so that the patient does not feel the exam being performed. A water filled transducer is placed directly onto the sclera and iris to view the anterior structures. Dilation is not required. This exam takes approximately 10 minutes.

An OCT (optical coherence tomography) is an exam that uses light waves. Patients with macular degeneration most often have this test performed. The central vision portion of the retina (the macula) is viewed, and its layers are measured. Dilation is required for this exam for optimal viewing of the macula. The exam takes approximately 15 minutes after full dilation. 

Appointments for these procedures may be made by a referring physician‘s office only. The office may contact the ultrasound department at 617-573-3282. All patients will need to register and provide insurance information before the appointment. The testing area is located on the 12th floor of the Boston main building.