Ultrasound - Baby Ultrasound and Sonograms

What Is Ultrasound Imaging and When Did It Start?

Ultrasound imaging is a technique that is used in hospitals and clinics to help doctors better understand what is going on inside a person's body. It is used to confirm a diagnosis or establish a diagnosis, and is used often in obstetrics to determine and gain information about the growing baby.

It operates on the same basis as sonar does in bats, or as sonar that is used on ships and by fishermen. In principle, the sound waves produced by the ultrasound, also called a sonogram, are beamed into the body and when they hit an object, they bounce back, or echo. An ultrasound picture is constructed from measuring different echoes that are reflected from the various tissues the sound waves are directed toward. This is how a shadow picture is formed.

Taking a step back into ultrasound history, we see that the study of the fundamental physics of sound vibrations was beginning in the early 1800s. However, the use of ultrasonics or ultrasound in medicine was not employed until more than a century later, and then only in terms of ultrasound therapy rather than diagnosis. In the 1950s, the heat and vibration from an ultrasonic device was used to relieve such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis. It wasn't until much later that ultrasound became more refined for other uses.

Fast-Forward to Today: Modern Ultrasound

Today, a skilled ultrasound technician is capable of seeing inside the body in order to provide answers to questions a doctor may have. Ultrasound technicians are trained professionals who have taken an accredited course in sonography and are certified to operate ultrasound equipment. Ultrasound schools offer different courses for the various applications of ultrasound - including medical - and a medical degree is not required to become a technician. Radiologists read the ultrasounds and are usually in the room when the technician is performing the procedure.

Obstetrics and Beyond - The Uses of Ultrasound Technology

We usually associate ultrasound with pregnancy, as it is used to assess the progress of pregnancy. Pelvic ultrasounds can be performed trans-abdominally where the probe is placed on the abdominal wall, or trans-vaginally, where it is placed into the vagina. An ultrasound used in gynecology enables a doctor to diagnose a growth or tumor of the ovary, uterus, or fallopian tubes. When a woman is expecting a baby, ultrasound is used to determine the size, weight, and gestational age of the baby as well as determine how many babies are in the womb. Other issues can be determined with the use of ultrasound, including the position of the placenta and any other abnormalities.

Wow! 3-D Ultrasound in Motion

A conventional ultrasound displays the images onto a screen where the technician can take still photos of what is being sonographed. With the advancements in ultrasound technology, three-dimensional ultrasounds that format the sound wave data into 3-D pictures are used to monitor a fetus in the uterus. A four dimensional (4-D) ultrasound is 3-D in motion and these ultrasounds are amazing. It is possible to watch the baby in motion in the uterus in 3-D. Almost like watching the baby swimming in real life outside the body.

So Many Ultrasound Uses

Along with obstetrics, diagnostic uses of ultrasound includes cardiology, echocardiography (evaluation of the heart function) and blood vessels to detect clots. Abdominal structures, aside from obstetrics, can be evaluated to test for such conditions as gallstones, kidney stones, infection, testicular torsion and for gynecological uses as well. In the neck, the thyroid gland can be imaged to determine if there are nodules or growths that needs to be attended to, and ultrasound is used to determine the extent of certain knee injuries - a regular item in the lives of athletes.

Therapeutic uses include helping to guide needles into the body or, in situations where a vein can't be found for an intravenous line, ultrasound guidance may be used to identify larger veins in the neck, chest wall, or groin.


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