Most people identify ultrasounds as imaging procedures that are used for pregnant women to help identify if there any issues with the unborn baby. While ultrasounds are certainly a critical tool used in the case of pregnancies, they are also important screening and diagnostic tools used for a variety of other applications.
Also referred to as ‘sonography’, an ultrasound uses sound waves to generate images of what is happening inside the body. Ultrasound technicians will use a transducer that emits high-frequency sound that cannot be heard by human ears, then records these echoes on a computer as these sound waves bounce back. This process, therefore, allows physicians to identify the shape, size, and consistency of organs and soft tissues in the body. After the ultrasound technician concludes the test, a radiologist or physician interprets the images. This type of screening technology is capable of diagnosing and treating specific medical conditions.
There are many uses for ultrasounds in the world of medicine, including the following.
Pregnancy. The images generated from an ultrasound have several uses throughout pregnancy. They can determine due dates, identify the presence of twins or other multiples, identify the sex of the baby, and identify pregnancies. They can also detect potential medical issues, such as birth defects, breech position, placental problems, and many others.
Diagnosing. Ultrasounds can be prescribed to detect any potential medical problems that impact the organs and soft tissues in the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, pancreas, spleen, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, bladder, ovaries, uterus, and thyroid.
During medical procedures. Ultrasounds can help physicians during actual procedures to help them have a better picture of what is happening within the patient’s body during the process.
Therapeutic issues.Ultrasounds can be used to identify and treat soft-tissue injuries.
Types of Ultrasounds
The majority of ultrasounds are conducted with a transducer that is moved over the skin’s surface. However, sometimes physicians can obtain a better image of a certain area of the body by inserting a special transducer into a natural opening, such as:
- Transvaginal ultrasounds, whereby a transducer wand is placed within a woman’s vagina to look at the uterus and ovaries.
- Trans rectal ultrasounds, which can help diagnose prostate issues.
- Transesophageal echocardiograms, which use a transducer probe in the esophagus to look at the heart.
Ultrasounds can also offer specialized imaging, such as Doppler ultrasounds that show images of the blood vessels, bone sonography to diagnose osteoporosis, and echocardiograms to view the heart. 3D high resolution ultrasound provides another dimension to ultrasound images, offering three-dimensional images instead of the flat 2D images that come with standard ultrasound. 4D ultrasounds can even show 3D images in motion.
Ultrasounds are certainly important diagnostic tools that are used for a variety of applications in the world of medicine.