Spring 2015 Classes Starting Soon

≡ Menu

Ultrasound Technology – How It Works

Ultrasound, also referred to as sonography, is a non-invasive technique used to capture internal images of the body, be it blood vessels, muscles, organs and other soft tissues. Ultrasounds may be performed to monitor the progress of a growing fetus inside a mother’s uterus, to detect abnormalities or signs of disease or even to visually assist with surgeries and biopsies.

Ultrasound technology

Ultrasound does not use radiation like X-rays or CT scans. Instead it relies on sound waves generated at such high frequencies that they cannot be heard by the human ear. According to Dr. Craig C. Freudenrich, ultrasound is similar to echolocation, a form of communication employed by bats and dolphins where they send out noises and listen for echoes in order to locate items or organisms in their environment.

The Basics

An ultrasound machine consists of a transducer (a type of probe) and a central processing unit or computer connected to a display (monitor), keyboard and printer.

The transducer is passed over the area of the body that covers the internal structures to be imaged. It is the transducer that emits sound waves at frequencies ranging between 1 and 10 MHz (megahertz). In turn, the sound waves are reflected back to the transducer after they bounce off the structures that are the focus of the ultrasound. The central processing unit measures the echo intensities and speed. These measures are converted into electronic images that show up on the machine’s monitor.

The ultrasound technician uses the keyboard to enter patient data and information related to the procedure. Hard copies of the ultrasound images may be printed to present to members of the diagnostic or healthcare team.

Advancements in Ultrasound Technology

3D ultrasound of babyJust like the continual evolution of computers and personal communication devices, ultrasound technology continues to advance. Originally, ultrasound technology only presented one- and two-dimensional pictures. Now there are machines capable of generating three-dimensional images. The first three-dimensional ultrasound machine dates back to the mid 1980s; Kazunori Baba, at the University of Tokyo used this innovative technology to capture 3D images of a fetus. There are even four dimensional ultrasound machines now which generate 3D scans in real time.

More recently, there has been a revolutionary wave to make ultrasound machines more portable and compact, useful in emergency situations and temporary healthcare facilities and more convenient in any clinic or hospital setting. According to Klein Biomedical Consultants, in 2007 the demand for hand-held ultrasound devices had increased by 42% (Source: “Design of Low-Cost Portable Ultrasound Systems” by Jonathan M. Baran). For example, in 2009, General Electric launched its V-scan pocket-sized ultrasound device. In early 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Mobisante’s latest invention: a cross between a smart phone and an ultrasound scanner.

Advancements in the application of ultrasound is continuously evolving, and more information can be found in this recently published article.

How Does Ultrasound Technology Compare?

In addition to diagnostic medical sonographers, also referred to as ultrasound technicians, there are other healthcare professionals who use medical imaging technology. Radiologic technologists use X-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT (computed tomography) machines. Unlike ultrasound machines, these technologies use radiation. Nuclear medicine technologists also use scanning equipment to capture internal images of the body. In this case, they administer radioactive compounds to their patients for the purpose of detecting abnormalities among the structures that are imaged.

Recent Information & News
Getting Started in Medical Imaging Thumbnail

Getting Started in Medical Imaging

The idea of starting a new career can be intimidating. Whether you’re still in high school or want to change careers as an adult, we can help with a step-by-step guide that will take you through the process of achieving your long-term goals. Sonographers are ranked #6 among the 30 occupations projected to see the Continue Reading

Ultrasound jobs

Ultrasound Career Resource and Advice

UltrasoundJOBS.Com is a career resource geared to assist sonography employers and job seekers alike. Not only does the ultrasound recruitment site serve as a resource for those looking for a new position, whether it is their first ultrasound technologist job or they wishing to advance their sonography career; it also serves as a guide for Continue Reading

A New Year…Time for a New Career? 5 TIPS Thumbnail

A New Year…Time for a New Career? 5 TIPS

Just a couple days ago—December 31, 2014—I took my mom to our local hospital for a scheduled CT scan. I remember thinking to myself, “New Year’s Eve!?! She’s got an appointment on New Year’s Eve!?!” My grumblings were completely set aside when we met a nurse working in the medical imaging department. She greeted my Continue Reading