Ultrasounds, also known as sonograms, utilise high-frequency sound waves to visualise a particular part of the body. Many people relate ultrasounds to pregnancy as one of the most notable uses of ultrasound technology is in pregnancy where the health of the unborn baby is checked on periodically during a pregnancy. However, ultrasounds can be used to examine a range of other body parts, including the heart, kidneys, abdomen, blood vessels and other organs. Three main types of ultrasound exist:

  • External:  Probe used externally over the body part being examined
  • Internal:  Probe is inserted into the body part being examined
  • Endoscopic:  An endoscopic tube is used to insert even further into the body

What can ultrasounds help diagnose?

Ultrasounds are routinely used to diagnose various diseases. They are used as a second diagnostic tool to diagnose malignant breast cancers in breast screening. They are also used to diagnose gall stones and kidney stones. Cysts and abnormal growths inside organs can also be diagnosed using ultrasound technology.

Advantages of Ultrasound Technology

In comparison to other methods of medical imaging such as CT scans and x-rays, ultrasounds are relatively harmless as they do not require any radiation exposure to produce results. However, patients should let their sonographer of any known conditions, such as allergies to the gel used during probing. This will prevent any complications and prevent the results being impacted. 

Important points to consider

Ultrasounds generally take between 10 and 45 minutes to complete. Each case is different, and the examination may take longer depending upon the complexity of the procedure. The examination involves moving a handheld probe over the skin. Lubricating gel is applied to the probe to allow it to move easily over the skin. 

For instance, the sonographer may have trouble finding certain features on the image that are a requirement of the examination. Patients such as pregnant women may find that lying on their back for a long period of time can make them slightly breathless. In such cases, the examination will have to be paused so the patient can take a moment to sit up. Additionally, in endoscopic ultrasounds, the patient may experience discomfort as the probe is inserted into the mouth. A sedative and local anesthetic spray will be used to numb the area. 

Although one does not need to wear any particular clothing during an ultrasound, certain examinations may require the patient to put on a gown, depending on the body area being examined.