Definition and Overview

Sonography ultrasound, or ultrasonography, is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses ultrasound waves to visualize different structures inside the body. Ultrasound, a sound pressure wave that oscillates with a higher frequency than what people can normally hear, can measure distance and detect objects. In sonography, ultrasound waves are used to look into the patient’s body and evaluate parts such as blood vessels, joints, tendons, internal organs, and muscles.

Ultrasound is popular as an imaging and examination tool for pregnant women. This procedure is known as obstetric sonography, where ultrasound waves are used to produce real-time images of the foetus inside the patient’s womb. In many countries, obstetric ultrasound is a part of standard prenatal care.

Sonography ultrasound is also quite useful in diagnosing and intervening with a wide variety of dysfunctions, irregularities, and issues in the body. Sonograms can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional, and can display the flow of blood in the veins and arteries, the movement of tissues over a certain period, the location of clots, the presence or absence of certain substances in the body, stiffness or other problems with the soft tissue, and the structure of organs.

Research shows that ultrasonography has a couple of advantages over other kinds of medical imaging procedures. For one, ultrasound images are displayed in real-time, compared to other medical imaging techniques that just take images at a certain point in time, with the images analyzed after they are processed. Ultrasound machines are also portable and can be brought directly to the patient; this is especially useful when the patient cannot be physically moved to a location where an ultrasound machine is located. More importantly, it does not contain radiation, which makes it very safe for pregnant women or very weak patients.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Most laypeople associate ultrasound imaging with pregnancy, as it is a part of standard prenatal care in many countries all over the world. Sonography can indeed be very useful in providing information about the mother’s health and the progress of her pregnancy, as well as improving the accuracy of timing labour because the doctor can see the images of the foetus as it grows. It also reduces the risk of induced labour.

Ultrasound procedures also provide a paediatrician or such specialists with a real-time image of the infant’s brain. Infants are quite delicate and cannot withstand other forms of medical imaging, nor could they follow instructions required by other imaging procedures. Sonography ultrasound can be performed to investigate and diagnose conditions in the eyes, thyroid, bladder, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, pancreas, testicles, liver, blood vessels, and uterus.

Ultrasound procedures can also be performed while a surgeon is performing a biopsy to monitor and guide the precision and safety of movements.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Before an ultrasound procedure, the patient will be asked to undress and change into a hospital gown. The patient will then be asked to lie down on an examination table for the procedure.

A sonographer, a specially trained ultrasound technician, will apply a lubricating gel on the target area. This gel will reduce the amount of friction between the patient’s skin and the ultrasound transducer, which is a microphone-like device that delivers the ultrasound waves into the skin. The gel is also specially formulated to better transmit and amplify the waves.

The ultrasound waves will echo as soon as they encounter a bone or an organ inside the body, and the echoes will be transmitted back into the attached computer unit.

The patient may be asked to change positions from time to time to analyze different parts of the body. An ultrasound procedure typically takes around half an hour, with the patient perfectly able to return to normal activities after the procedure.

Possible Complications and Risks

Ultrasound sonography is generally safe, without noticeable or serious side effects. This is the reason why pregnant women can safely undergo the procedure. In a study published in 1998, the World Health Organization reported that ultrasound is harmless, and is safe, effective, and very flexible in the provision of “clinically relevant information about most parts of the body in a rapid and cost-effective fashion.”

References:

  • American Society of Radiologic Technologists: “Ultrasound.”
  • FDA Consumer Health Information: “Taking a Close Look at Ultrasound.” RadiologyInfo.org: “General Ultrasound Imaging.”
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