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Ultrasound Uses in Healthcare

Ultrasound (also known as sonography or ultrasonography) is a valuable medical imaging tool. Its uses go beyond confirming a woman is pregnant or assessing the health of the mother and her developing child.

Medical ultrasound machine with linear probes

Ultrasound scans can be used for diagnostic, screening and therapeutic/treatment purposes. And the neat thing is, especially in more recent years, new uses are continuously being discovered, created and refined.

Just SOME of Ultrasound’s many healthcare functions include:

 Determining a baby’s due date.

– Identifying placenta previa. In the most serious cases of placenta previa, the placenta is fully covering the opening to the cervix, and the child must be delivered by C-section.

– Assessing whether leg swelling is due to a condition such as deep vein thrombosis or a blood clot.

– Identifying whether the aortic valve (which is connected to the heart) needs to be replaced or repaired.

– Monitoring chronic liver disease (i.e. using ultrasound elastography).

– Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy. A dangerous situation if not detected, ectopic pregnancies are where the embryo/fetus is developing outside the uterus.

– Confirming an enlarged spleen (the spleen can become enlarged due to infection, disease and other causes).

– Diagnosing congestive heart failure (an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart, is one of the tools used).

– Determining and prioritizing breast lesions (those more likely to be malignant) and reducing the need to biopsy low suspicion benign lesions (i.e. through Shear Wave elastography).

– Pinpointing an abdominal aortic aneurysm (if such an aneurysm bursts, it can be fatal).

– Checking blood flow in the scrotum to investigate whether the patient might have testicular torsion.

– Monitoring thyroid nodules and determining whether they should be biopsied.

– Locating tumors, cysts, stones and obstructions in or around the kidneys.

– Detecting certain birth defects (such as spina bifida, cleft palate, heart problems…) while baby in still in the womb.

– Detecting blood clots in the heart.

– Diagnosing a, and identifying the type of, groin hernia.

– Detecting a Baker’s cyst in the knee.

– Determining a patient’s risk of getting osteoporosis through ultrasound bone sonometry.

– Diagnosing tumors, cysts or growths in the female reproductive system (gynecologic ultrasounds).

– Guiding needles during medical procedures, such as during a biopsy or draining an abscess (ultrasound-guided procedures).

– Scanning the carotid arteries to see if they are narrowed due to plaque buildup in order to reduce the risk of any future strokes.

– Detecting a gallbladder infection or gallstones.

– Identifying whether it’s a twin or multiple pregnancy.

– Helping locate veins to insert an intravenous line (in times when a vein is difficult to find).

-Monitoring heart health before and after chemotherapy treatments.

– Treating certain diseases using focused ultrasound. Research, testing or adoption of focused ultrasound treatment is happening around the world for a range of diseases, from Parkinson’s to breast cancer to depression to essential tremor. In the United States, the FDA has approved focused ultrasound treatment for uterine fibroids and bone metastases; recently the FDA has approved one of SonaCare’s focused ultrasound systems to treat prostate disease.

Article by Michelle Brunet. Read more of her work on UltrasoundSchoolsInfo.com & follow her on Google+.