Ultrasound, also called sonography, is a non-invasive procedure most often used for diagnostic purposes in many disease and non-disease conditions. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of soft tissues inside the body and when the sound waves bounce back, they are recorded and turned into images on a computer screen. Although the term ultrasound is often associated with pregnancy and prenatal care, it is widely used in the medical field and trained ultrasound technologists participate in many medical procedures where imaging is required. Here are just some of the intriguing ways in which ultrasound can be used.
Visualizing Infant Heart and Birth Defects
Pregnancy is probably one of the most well-known uses for an ultrasound and most of us have seen the small black and white photos of fetuses. Aside from visualizing the fetus and determining due date and gender, ultrasound can also be used to learn so much more about a developing baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association, ultrasound can be used to visualize certain birth defects and malformations, such as Down syndrome and congenital malformations, in the developing fetus. It can even detect certain life-threatening heart defects in the small heart of a developing.
Visualizing Problems with Pregnancy
Besides giving information on the baby, ultrasound can also give detailed information about the pregnancy by revealing ectopic pregnancies, problematic placental placement, and identify uterine or pelvic abnormalities in the mother. Visualizing these conditions will help the health care practitioner to determine the best care for the mother as well as the growing baby.
Visualizing Heart Problems and Blood Clots
A specialized ultrasound, called cardiac ultrasound, can be done to detect abnormal structures, blood clots, or blockages within the heart or even diagnose rhythmic disorders and coronary artery. Cardiac ultrasound can also be done simultaneously with an echocardiography (EKG) to give more detailed information on the heart.
Visualizing Blood Flow and Fluid Collection
Ultrasound can be used for detecting blood flow or leakage inside the body. This can be done during cardiac ultrasound to visualize blood flow inside the heart and to detect any blood clots or other obstructions that might block the flow. It can detect injured blood vessels after a trauma, such as after a car accident. Besides blood leakage, ultrasound can also be used to diagnose cerebrospinal fluid leakage from the spinal cord after a lumbar puncture.
One vital use for an ultrasound is to diagnose the presence of tumors in the soft tissues of the body. Although ultrasound cannot detect whether a tumor is malignant, aiding in the detection and removal of tumors before they grow and spread can be a lifesaving procedure.
Guiding Biopsy with Ultrasound
Some medical procedures use ultrasound imaging to assist the procedure. For example, during a needle biopsy of a tumor, ultrasound imaging helps guide the needle to the tumor for tissue removal.
Besides diagnostic purposes, ultrasound can also be used for physical therapy applications to treat certain soft-tissue injuries. The earliest uses of ultrasound for physical therapy to treat tendonitis and bursitis were done in the 1950s using a low power ultrasound. Later on, ultrasonic applications have been used for mechanically resolving kidney stones, cataract removal, and uterine fibroid ablation. Therapeutic ultrasound differs from a diagnostic ultrasound in that it uses higher intensity waves. This leads to so called ultrasound-induced heating as the tissue absorbs the ultrasonic energy. Ultrasound technologists can use this technique to warm tendons and muscles, which in turn improves blood flow and accelerates healing of the tissue.
As a sonographer, you can play an important role in the medical field and work in various health care settings, including hospitals, laboratories, medical imaging centers, and private practices.
What’s more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for diagnostic medical sonographers was $65,860 as of May 2012.
Become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
If a career as an ultrasound technologist sounds interesting, get in touch with ECPI University to learn more about our Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Through the University’s year-round program, you could earn your degree in just 19 months!
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