Ultrasound: What Is It?

Ultrasound technicians, also known as diagnostic medical sonographers, are trained to use specialized ultrasound equipment to produce accurate images of the organs and tissues inside the body. If you have considered a career in this field, you may have considered what is ultrasound, exactly? Ultrasound imaging is one of the most advanced technologies of our generation, and uses sound waves to generate an image without making any incisions in the body. It is often used to detect tumors, during pregnancy, and to diagnose or treat certain types of medical conditions in the body.

How Ultrasound Works

Ultrasound machines emit sound waves at various frequencies directly onto the body. Diagnostic medical sonographers, or ultrasound technicians, are trained to use just the right setting to create an accurate image. The sonographer uses a device called a "transducer", which emits sound waves in various shapes over certain body parts. The area under examination then shows up on a viewing screen, and the sonographer can take an image of the area needed for diagnostic purposes.

Conventional ultrasound machines create images in very thin and flat sections of the body. However, most of today's ultrasound technicians use technology and equipment that produces three-dimensional images, and some of these images can be used to create simulations on a computer. 3D ultrasound is often used on pregnant women.

Ultrasound examinations are often necessary for evaluating symptoms of a disease or medical condition. For example, if a patient is experiencing swelling, pain, or has signs of an infection, the ultrasound device can be used to evaluate what is causing these symptoms. One of the biggest benefits of using ultrasound technology is that the physician does not have to perform any type of surgery or use endoscopic devices to see if there is a problem with the internal organs.

How Technicians Use Ultrasound

Ultrasound devices can be used to examine several body parts and organs, including the: heart; gallbladder; kidneys; pancreas; spleen; liver; uterus; scrotum; thyroid; ovaries; eyes; and the fetus in a pregnant women. Ultrasound technologies may also be used as part of a biopsy procedure, to diagnose various types of heart conditions, and to produce images when detecting breast cancer. In situations where a physician detects a blood clot or a tumor, ultrasound technology can be used to produce images of any blockages and clots in the circulatory system, congenital malformations, and any narrowing of the vessels.

The ultrasound scanner and machines typically consist of a small console that includes a computer, a video display screen, and the transducer - a hand-held device that looks like a small microphone. The transducer is applied to the body to produce the images that are sent back to the video display screen.

The ultrasound technician applies the transducer to various tissues so that the device can direct small pulses of high-frequency sound waves directly into the body. The sound waves bounce off the organs, tissues and skin at various frequencies and the result is a fairly accurate image of the area.

The ultrasound technician can then store this information on the computer and may assist a physician or radiologist in assessing the problem or detecting any visible problems in the area. Most ultrasound examinations are completed within an hour, and are completely painless.