Learning Resources

Basic knowledge and principles of medical ultrasound

What Is an Ultrasound?

Many people who hear the term "ultrasound" likely picture a pregnant woman in her doctor's office getting a sneak peek of the baby growing inside her womb -- perhaps even finding out whether she should paint the nursery pink or blue. But while fetal imaging is one of the most common uses of ultrasounds, this diagnostic tool actually has many applications.

How Ultrasound Imaging Works

Ultrasound, also called sonography, uses sound waves to develop ultrasound images of what's going on inside the body. An instrument called a transducer emits high-frequency sound, inaudible to human ears, and then records the echoes as the sound waves bounce back to determine the size, shape, and consistency of soft tissues and organs.

This information is relayed in real time to produce images on a computer screen. Ultrasound technicians, or sonographers, have special training in how to perform the test. Then a radiologist or your doctor will interpret the ultrasound images. This technology can help diagnose and treat certain conditions.

 

Benefits of Ultrasound

Ultrasounds offer many advantages:

  • They are generally painless and do not require needles, injections, or incisions.
  • Patients aren't exposed to ionizing radiation, making the procedure safer than diagnostic techniques such as X-rays and CT scans. In fact, there are no known harmful effects when used as directed by your health care provider.
  • Ultrasound captures images of soft tissues that don't show up well on X-rays.
  • Ultrasounds are widely accessible and less expensive than other methods.

 

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