What are Ultrasounds?
Ultrasounds are also called ultrasound imaging, ultrasound scanning or Ultrasonography. They are also called sonograms or sonography. The procedure has a lot of names but they all mean the same thing. We will use the term ultrasound from here on out just to make things easy.
An ultrasound is a noninvasive medical procedure that helps doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions. The method uses high-frequency sound waves to produce very specific images of what’s inside a patient’s body.
Ultrasound exams do not use radiation and patients are not exposed to any radiation. They are not x-rays.
Ultrasound equipment produce high-frequency sound waves that are aimed into and through a person’s body. The echoes of these waves that are bounced back off structures inside that are then recorded. These principles of using echos to gather data are actually the same principles that allow SONAR on boats to see the bottom of the ocean. It’s basically the same type of “Echolocation” bats use to fly around at night without ever bumping into anything or each other.
Qualified technologists have the ability to measure the different frequencies of echoes bouncing back and decipher what caused them or exactly what they bounced off. With the aid of a computer, this data allows a very precise image to be created almost in real time. Read more in depth about just exactly how it works here.
Health care professionals use ultrasounds to view a man, woman, or even a child’s heart, blood vessels, kidneys, liver and/or other organs. And because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can actually show the movement of a person’s internal organs almost in real time, including the blood flowing through their blood vessels.
Ultrasound technology is especially accurate at seeing interfaces between solid and fluid filled spaces. Thus, during pregnancy, doctors use ultrasound tests to examine the fetus inside a woman and are able to view the structure and any movement of the fetus.
Conventional ultrasounds can display their images as thin, flat sections of the body. However recent advancements in technology have created ultrasound imaging that is three-dimensional (3-D). The same principals are used but computers format the sound wave data into 3-D images. Four-dimensional (4-D) ultrasound is 3-D ultrasound but shown in motion.
Above: Patient receiving an ultrasound test.
Above: Print outs from an Ultrasound test of a healthy fetus inside the mother's healthy uterus. This is just one type or reason for an ultrasound.