Medical Ultrasonography: How Does It Work and Why You Might Need It?
Medical ultrasounds are a popular, efficient, and affordable diagnostic scan that people of any age can undergo safely. From this article, you’ll get to know its basic principle and the specifics of the procedure.
The medical ultrasound scan was invented in the 1950s and has remained one of the most popular and reliable diagnostic methods ever since. It employs high-frequency sound waves to capture images of what’s going on inside the body.
From this article, you’ll learn about the essence of ultrasound technology: its primary uses and the level of safety. You’ll learn how to prepare for the procedure and what is the difference between the two types of scans.
The Essence of the Technology
The word “ultrasound” denotes the sound of such a frequency that humans fail to hear. For diagnostic purposes, doctors work with the ultrasound whose frequency falls within the range from 2 to 18 MHz. Waves with a frequency of 1.9MHz and lower can penetrate deeper inside the tissues — but they can’t deliver high-quality images. Waves with a frequency of 18.1 MHz and higher can deliver very detailed images — but they can’t penetrate deep enough.
The cost of ultrasound is affordable to most patients and you can undergo such a scan in nearly any hospital. The medical experts who carry out ultrasound tests are known as sonographers.
They might interpret the image themselves or pass it to cardiologists or other doctors. The hand-held device that the sonographer uses is called a transducer. It resembles a wand and is placed on the patient’s skin. A sonogram is the name of the image that you get as the result of the test.
To capture that image, ultrasound waves travel through soft tissue and fluids. Once they come across denser objects, they echo or bounce back. The denser the surface, the more intense the echo. Varying densities correspond to different shades of gray on the sonogram.
Let’s consider such an example: the patient is undergoing a gallbladder ultrasound test. If there are stones, the waves will echo — and if there are none, the ultrasound will travel freely through the gallbladder.
Medical professionals rely on ultrasound to achieve the following tasks:
- Diagnose disease
- Monitor fetal development
- Identify whether a lump is a tumor
- Assist in performing certain types of biopsy
- Guide a needle with anesthetic solutions near nerves
This technology detects abnormalities in the liver, heart, kidney, abdomen, pancreas, thyroid gland, testes, ovaries, and some other parts of the human body.
Plus, it enables doctors to examine frozen shoulders, tennis elbows, carpal tunnel syndrome as well as issues with soft tissues, muscles, blood vessels, tendons, and joints.
Usually, patients don’t need to prepare for an ultrasound scan — but they might want to wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing. People with gallbladder or liver problems might need to eat nothing or fast for a few hours before the procedure.
Pregnant ladies, particularly in the first trimester, should drink plenty of water and try to avoid urinating for some time before the scan. This method delivers a clearer image of the uterus when the bladder is full.
The person comes to the radiology department of the hospital, or outpatient clinic, or doctor’s office. The procedure can last from approximately 20 minutes to a maximum of one hour.
External and Internal Ultrasound
The external ultrasound scan is painless and there is no unpleasant noise. Only pregnant women might experience slight discomfort because of the full bladder.
The medical professional applies a lubricating gel onto the patient’s abdomen, or another part of their body, and moves a transducer over the skin.
The pressure is very gentle. During the scan, the patient is lying still on a bed. The sonographer might ask them to roll over, breathe in or out.
The internal procedure is less comfortable than its external counterpart and might even cause internal bleeding. To reduce pain, the patient might take medication before the scan.
The doctor introduces an endoscope inside the patient’s esophagus (typically, through the mouth) to evaluate their digestive system or the chest lymph nodes. Or, the doctor can place the transducer inside a woman’s vagina or a man’s rectum to evaluate their urinary system and internal reproductive organs.
This is a safe and non-invasive method that involves no ionizing radiation. However, scientists can’t say for sure whether ultrasound might have any long-term risks. That’s why pregnant women should avoid this procedure unless absolutely necessary.
Also, people who suffer from latex allergy should warn the sonographer that they shouldn’t use latex-covered probes.
Hopefully, this article came in handy and you now better understand the essentials and benefits of the medical ultrasound. It is a remarkably safe method that small kids, elderly people, and pregnant ladies can use.
Ultrasound enables medical professionals to assess the state of soft tissues inside the human body, carry out a biopsy, detect tumors and monitor fetal development.
Nearly every hospital has ultrasound equipment and the price of which should be very affordable.
About The Author:
My name is Lilian Davis. I’m doing promotions for a digital healthcare marketplace tripment.com.