Ultrasound imaging, or sonography, is a non-invasive procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs. First used medically in the 1950s, the earliest forms of ultrasound machines only produced flat, still images, but today's machines can produce 3D and 4D scans. Ultrasound scanners use a clear gel to help enhance the image. While a special ultrasound gel is often used, there are many alternatives that can serve the same purpose.
Baby oil, also known as mineral oil, is a popular and inexpensive alternative to ultrasound gel. The clear, colourless oil is available in two grades, light and heavy, although both varieties perform equally well. Baby oil is readily available in most stores and pharmacies and is the least expensive option, typically costing between £1.30 and £2.60 for a 591ml bottle.
Produced by Johnson & Johnson, KY Jelly was introduced in 1919 as the first personal lubricant. The water-based and water-soluble product makes it easier to clean up than other oil-based lubricants and ultrasound gels. According to a UK-based study, KY Jelly actually produces a better ultrasound transmissivity rating than several specially-formulated ultrasound gels. KY Jelly is widely available in stores and online, and costs between £1.90 and £2.60 for a 118ml tube.
Bio Oil is a skincare product that is marketed as a way to help reduce scars, stretch marks and uneven skin colouring. The oil also works as an alternative to ultrasound gel, however. The product contains several vitamins and oils, including PurCellin Oil, a lab-created oil designed to mimic the preen gland oil found in ducks. Bio Oil can be ordered online and found in many stores, and it usually costs between £11.0 and £13.00 for a 124ml bottle.
While gel and oil lubricants provide the best transmissivity, body lotions and other moisturisers can also work in a pinch. Moisturisers don't carry the transducer's sound waves as well, however, so the picture may appear fuzzy and less detailed. Moisturisers can be found in most stores and are available in a range of prices.