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What is an Ultrasound?

What is an Ultrasound?

Also referred to as sonography, an ultrasound scan is a medical test that uses high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from inside your body.

The technology used is similar to that employed by sonar and radar. An ultrasound allows medical personnel to ascertain the varied organs, internal vessels, and live tissues without the necessity to form any incisions.

Ultrasound uses no radiation, unlike other imaging techniques. Since it’s very safe, it’s the preferred method for viewing a developing fetus during pregnancy.

Types

Medical ultrasound has two distinct categories: diagnostic and therapeutic.

Diagnostic

This may be a non-invasive diagnostic procedure that is used to take images inside the body. Tranducers, or ultrasound probes, construct sound waves that have frequencies above human hearing (above 20KHz). Most transducers in current use operate at much higher frequencies (in the megahertz (MHz) range). Diagnostic ultrasound probes are mainly placed on the skin.

Therapeutic

This uses sound waves that are above the range of human hearing. But unlike diagnostic ultrasound, this particular ultrasound doesn’t produce images. Its purpose is to interact with tissues within the body.

Among the modifications possible are:

  • Heating tissue
  • Delivering drugs to specific locations within the body
  • Moving or pushing tissue
  • Dissolving blood clots

These harsh functions are made possible by the use of high-intensity beams, which destroy diseased or abnormal tissues like tumors. Ultrasound therapies have advantages. In most cases, they’re non-invasive. No incisions or cuts are made to the skin, leaving no wounds or scars.

Why is it Performed?

Most people associate these types of scans with pregnancy. These scans can provide initial views of an unborn child. The ultrasound test has many helpful uses aside from pregnancy scans.

A doctor may order the scan if the patient is experiencing pain, swelling, or other symptoms that need an internal view of the organs. An ultrasound can provide an examination of the:

  • Blood vessels
  • Uterus
  • Testicles
  • Thyroid
  • Spleen
  • Bladder
  • Eyes
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreas
  • Ovaries
  • Liver
  • Kidneys

How is it Performed?

Before the exam, you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown and lie down on a table with your body exposed for the test.

The sonographer is also called the ultrasound technician and will apply a special lubricating jelly on your skin. This special mixture prevents friction between your skin and the ultrasound transducer. This lubricating jelly, in addition, facilitates the transmission of sound waves.

The transducer dispatches high-frequency sound waves throughout your body. The waves reflect as they collide with a dense object, like an organ or bone. Those reflections are then echoed back to a computer. The high-pitched sound waves are too high for a human ear to hear. These waves then form an image, which will be interpreted by the doctor.

After the procedure, the lubricating gel is cleaned off. The entire procedure typically lasts an hour.

After the Scan

Following the exam, your doctor will review the scans and check for any problems and abnormalities. Should any abnormalities show up on the ultrasound, you may be recommended to undergo other diagnostic techniques like a CT scan, MRI, or a biopsy sample of tissue counting on the world examined.

Learn more about Medical Procedures here.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Honey Buenaventura Updated Mar 14
Medically reviewed by Janie-Vi Villamor Ismael-Gorospe, MD