How Does Ultrasound Work?
Those interested in becoming a Sonographer might already know that the career entails imaging the inside of the body. But how ultrasound work? This might seem a simple process but the technology can be quite intricate. Let’s find out exactly what sonography entails so that you can see if a career as a Registered/Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) would be a great match for you!
Sonography is the ability to produce pictures of inside the body by using sound waves. (Sort of like how bats navigate!) After a gel is placed on the area of the body needing imaging, a small transducer (also referred to as a probe) will then be placed on top of the gel by a Sonographer. The transducer is a small hand-held device which resembles a microphone, and is attached to the scanner by a cord.
Ultimately, when the transducer is pressed against the skin the device will direct small pulses of inaudible, high-frequency sound waves into the body. As these waves bounce off either tissues, fluids or organs a receiver in the transducer records even the smallest change in the sound wave’s pitch or direction. To create an image, these unique waves are measured in real-time and an image is produced by a computer, which is then displayed on its monitor. One of the most interesting aspects of this imaging is that, while most often one or more frames of the moving pictures are captured as still images, the production of short video loops of the images is also possible.
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In addition to this general form sonography, advancements in the technology now include three-dimensional sonography options. These methods format the sound wave data so that the image produced can be viewed in 3-D. This method can be especially useful when a Physician needs to see or evaluate blood flow through arteries and veins in various parts of the body, or to assess organs such as the kidneys or liver. When using 3-D sonography, also referred to as Doppler ultrasound, understanding that there are three primary subcategories of the method is important.
- First, color doppler uses a computer to convert the sound wave measurements into an array of colors. This is done to show both the speed and direction of blood through through a particular blood vessel.
- Second, power doppler (a newer technique) can provide even greater detail of blood flow, especially when the flow is minimal. This is the case because the technology is more sensitive than color doppler. However, the machine is unable to determine the direction of blood flow.
- Lastly, spectral doppler is a technique that can display blood flow measurements graphically, and identifies the distance traveled per unit of time instead of as a color picture. This technique can also convert blood flow information into a distinctive sound that can be heard with every heartbeat.
Note: One of the greatest elements of using sonography is that the method does not use ionizing radiation (which is used in x-rays), meaning the patient will not experience any exposure to radiation. Also, the procedure is noninvasive and the images are captured in real-time. Sonography is a safe and painless process, so the process is much less stressful on patients that some alternatives!
Furthermore, while technology is integral in this role, an examination is equally dependent on a Sonographer’s skills. The quality of each exam rests on the attention to detail, knowledge and experience of these professionals.
Make sense? Now that sonography is more clearly explained, learn other elements of a rewarding career as a Sonographer.
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