Friday 2 February 2018

Ultrasounds: A Quick Guide

Ultrasound, ultrasonography or simply sonography is a valuable tool in the medical industry. Most of you would link it with pregnancy, determining the health of the baby and her mother. This is the most common application, but ultrasounds have several other uses as well.

How does ultrasound imaging work?
As the name implies, this technology makes use of sound waves to develop an image of the body’s inside parts and organs. A transducer releases sound at high frequency which the human ear cannot hear. When the waves reflect back, the transducer records the echoes, and determines the shape and size of internal organs and tissues. The information is then used to create images on a display screen in real time.

Usually, a technician or sonographer takes ultrasound images. Your doctor or radiologist then studies these images, and comes up with results.

How are ultrasounds used?
Ultrasounds can be used in numerous ways such as determining pregnancy, estimating the delivery date, diagnosing specific conditions and guiding healthcare professionals during complicated medical procedures.

Ultrasounds are used for several purposes during pregnancy. In the initial days, they are used for revealing twins, ectopic pregnancies and delivery date calculation. They are also used for detecting likely problems, birth defects and foetus position. Parents are often interested to know the baby’s sex, which is determined using ultrasounds.

In the later stages, ultrasounds are used for determining the weight and size of the baby before delivery.

Ultrasounds can help in diagnosing conditions related to the heart, liver, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, thyroid and other organs. However, they do have some limitations for instance the waves don’t transmit properly if the body part is dense or contains gases or air.

Medical Procedures
Doctors often used ultrasound imaging during biopsies, when they have to precisely remove body tissue for testing purposes.

Therapeutic Applications
Ultrasounds may be used for detection and treatment of soft tissue injuries.

What the common types of ultrasounds?
Most of the ultrasound images are taken by placing the transducer directly on your skin. In some cases, a better image can be obtained if a special transducer is inserted into a natural opening of the body. For instance, if images of the ovaries and uterus have to be captured, then the transducer is placed in the vagina. This is referred to as transvaginal ultrasound. In case of a transesophageal echocardiogram, the transducer is inserted in the oesophagus because this results in clearer images.

What different types of images can be produced?
The produced images depend on the technology being used. Doppler ultrasound creates an image of the blood flow through the circulatory system. Bone sonography is helpful in diagnosis of osteoporosis. Better images of the heart are obtained with echocardiograms.
Ultrasound images can also be 3D and 4D.

What are the main advantages?
Ultrasound images can be obtained a painless procedure that does not expose the patient to radiation. Plus, they are more economical than other techniques.

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