When you hear the word ultrasound, you probably think of pregnancies and gender reveals but ultrasound imaging, or sonography, is used in a variety of instances in which a medical diagnosis is needed. We’ll explain the basics of ultrasounds, what they are used for in medical imaging, how to prepare for your appointment, and what to expect during the procedure.
Learn more about our ultrasound services at NuChoice Imaging.
What is a general ultrasound in medical imaging?
Ultrasound exams are used by physicians to diagnose a variety of medical conditions and analyze organ damage. It is a non-invasive, safe, radiation-free technology that creates an image of your internal body structures. Sound waves are produced by an ultrasound probe or a transducer. These sound waves have frequencies that humans cannot hear but the machinery is able to translate the waves into an image on a computer monitor.
Different uses of ultrasound scans in medical imaging
Besides the frequently known use of examining fetuses in pregnant people, ultrasounds in medical imagingdiagnoses swelling, infection, and pain inside of the patient’s body. Because this technology is non-invasive, it is safe to use on infants if there is an issue with their brain, spine, or bone structures. Ultrasounds can help doctors complete biopsies, examine heart conditions, and analyze any lingering damage done by a heart attack.
Soft tissue that won’t show up on X-rays is shown on ultrasound scans. Your doctor can evaluate the shape, size, and consistency of organs. The real-time monitor shows your physician what is happening at the moment. As for the patient, the image on the computer monitor might only appear as a black and white mysterious shape, but doctors are expertly trained to see even the slightest difference in organ tissue depth or movement.
Equipment used in an ultrasound
The equipment used in ultrasound scans consists of the transducer, or the wand, the computer monitor, a computer console, and some sort of gel that is placed on the patient. The transducer sends sound waves into the body, much like sonar on boats is sent out into the waters below. The sound waves create a moving image on the monitor. The image is created from a combination of amplitude, pitch, and time from the wave being sent out to when it returns.
There is no radiation involved in the equipment and it is considered to be safe even for young children and infants.
How the procedure works
Depending on what part of the body is being evaluated, the patient will lie on either their back or side to allow the ultrasound technician or radiologist to improve the image quality. They will apply a gel to the area that will be examined. This gel enables the ultrasound wand to connect securely with the patient’s skin and avoid air pockets that would disrupt the final image.
The radiologist will move the transducer on the patient’s body in a back and forth pattern until the image that is needed is created. You will feel gentle pressure from the wand moving across your skin but otherwise, the procedure shouldn’t be painful. Alert the technician if you have discomfort.
Once the procedure is completed, the radiologist will clean the gel off of the skin or give you paper towels so that you may do it yourself. While you wait, the doctor will be reviewing the images that were created and will let you know the results. This might happen right after your scan or require a follow-up appointment with your doctor. You will be able to resume your normal activities immediately after the exam.
Preparing for your ultrasound
Since ultrasound scans are non-invasive, you might not need to prepare at all for your imaging center appointment. In some cases though, you might need special preparation. This could include refraining from eating a couple of hours before the ultrasound or ensuring that you as the patient have a full bladder. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions before your appointment and it’s important that you follow these so that diagnoses are accurate and timely.
After the ultrasound procedure
Treatment for any found health concerns will be addressed by your physician. The doctor will carefully assess the images that your ultrasound creates and relay that information to you. Things like fibroids that are detected during ultrasounds might be surgically removed or shrunk with medication. Other diseases might need further testing or surgery.
Ultrasounds are generally known for their uses for pregnant people, but there are several different uses for an ultrasound such as diagnosing swelling, infection, and any internal pain that a patient might have. Here at NuChoice, we offer sonography services for all of these reasons and any others that your doctor may order an ultrasound.