An ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to “see” inside the body. Unlike other imaging modalities (such as x-rays), ultrasounds capture live information, which means that our specialists can see the structure and the movement of the body’s internal organs in real time.
Areas of Application
- Abdomen – screening for non-specific symptoms such as pain
- Liver – tumors, cysts, or hepatitis (inflammation)
- Gall Bladder and Biliary Tract – stones and inflammation
- Pancreas – tumors, cysts, and pancreatitis (inflammation)
- Kidneys and urinary bladder – stones, tumors, and infection
- Aorta – an aneurysm (abnormal size)
- Veins – blood clots
- Uterus – fibroids and endometrium (lining of the uterus) for bleeding
- Ovaries – tumors and cysts
- Prostate Gland – tumors, infection, and BPH (benign prostatic hypertrophy or enlargement with age)
- Scrotum – tumors and infection
- Thyroid Gland – benign and malignant nodules, thyroiditis (inflammation)
Ultrasound Benefits Vs. Risks
- Most ultrasound scanning is noninvasive and is usually painless.
- Ultrasound is easy-to-use and less expensive than other imaging methods.
- Ultrasound imaging uses no ionizing radiation. It causes no health problems and may be repeated as often as is necessary.
For standard diagnostic ultrasound, there are no known harmful effects on humans.Learn More About Ultrasounds
How Do Ultrasounds Work?
Ultrasound imaging is based on the same principles involved in the sonar used by bats, ships and fishermen. When a sound wave strikes an object, it bounces back, or echoes. By measuring these echo waves it is possible to determine how far away the object is and its size, shape, and consistency (whether the object is solid, filled with fluid, or both).
In an ultrasound examination, a transducer both sends the sound waves and records the echoing waves. When the transducer is pressed against the skin, it directs small pulses of inaudible, high-frequency sound waves into the body. As the sound waves bounce off of internal organs, fluids and tissues, the sensitive microphone in the transducer records tiny changes in the sound’s pitch and direction. These signature waves are instantly measured and displayed by a computer, which in turn creates a real-time picture on the monitor. One or more frames of the moving pictures are typically captured as still images.
Doppler ultrasound, a special application of ultrasound, measures the direction and speed of blood cells as they move through vessels. The movement of blood cells causes a change in pitch of the reflected sound waves (called the Doppler effect). A computer collects and processes the sounds and creates graphs or color pictures that represent the flow of blood through the blood vessels.
How is an Ultrasound Performed?
For most ultrasound exams, the patient is positioned lying face-up on an examination table. A clear water-based gel is applied to the area of the body being studied to help the transducer make secure contact with the body and eliminate air pockets between the transducer and the skin. The sonographer (ultrasound technologist) then presses the transducer firmly against the skin and sweeps it over the area of interest.
Doppler sonography is performed using the same transducer. For ultrasound of the female pelvis, a special transducer is comfortably placed into the vagina with the patient in a position similar to a routine gynecological exam. For ultrasound of the prostate gland, a special transducer is comfortably placed into the rectum while the patient lies on his left side.
Next, learn about Mink Radiology’s radiography & X-rays.