What viscosity ultrasound gel should I use?

Viscosity is defined as a measurement of a fluid’s resistance to flow.* Because ultrasound technology spans a variety of applications, scanning gels are offered in several viscosity options. Gels may be labeled as high, medium, low or light (LITE) viscosity.

In clinical use, the choice of gel viscosity tends to be a matter of user preference.  High viscosity gel is used for most ultrasound scanning applications, especially for procedures requiring a thicker, more viscous gel that stays in place. When applying gel directly on a transducer or on an angled part of the body, a high viscosity gel is typically desired. A medium or lower viscosity gel is considered thinner or more “runny” than a high viscosity gel. It offers less resistance as the transducer is moved over the gel during a procedure. Sonographers frequently prefer lower viscosity gel for OB/GYN applications to avoid the “snowplow effect” that occurs with a higher viscosity gel over large surface areas.

We are unaware of any published standards designating gel viscosities for specific ultrasound procedures, or established recommendations for gel manufacturers regarding the differences in the measurement of viscosity between a high versus a medium or low viscosity gel. The medium viscosity gel manufactured by NEXT Medical Products is 40% less viscous than our high viscosity gel. Other manufacturers may have a higher or lower percentage difference in viscosity between their gel options.

Keep in mind that viscosity varies with temperature.* If your protocol includes warming ultrasound gel in a gel warmer prior to use, the gel may not be as viscous as gel left at room temperature. In addition, gel may become less viscous as it remains on a patient and is subjected to body temperature and salt contained in perspiration.

If you are unsure what viscosity ultrasound gel is best for your application, we recommend that you obtain samples of both a high and a medium/light viscosity gel to try. NEXT Medical Products is happy to comply with sample requests. If you would like to try our gel, please click here to order a sample.


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*The Physics Hypertextbook, Glenn Elert, 1998-2013 <http://physics.info/viscosity/>