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Ultrasound Overview

Ultrasound (also termed sonography, ultrasonography, and Doppler study) is a non-invasive diagnostic medical technique that uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of the internal structures of the body. These sound waves are not detectable by human hearing.

Using ultrasonography, a technician or doctor moves a device called a transducer (probe) over part of your body. The transducer emits sound waves which bounce off the internal tissues, and creates images from the waves that bounce back. Different densities of tissues, fluid, and air inside the body produce different images that can be interpreted by a physician, typically a radiologist (a physician who specializes in imaging technologies). Many studies are done by a trained technologist (sonographer) and then interpreted by a radiologist.

Ultrasound Uses

Ultrasound can be used as a diagnostic or screening tool to confirm medical disorders or to assist in performing medical procedures. It is also used as a therapeutic tool in treating musculoskeletal problems, renal stones (kidney stones), and gallstones.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2016

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Ultrasound - Patient Experience

For what condition did you receive an ultrasound? Please describe your experience.

Ultrasound pregnancy testing in women


Ultrasound Uses

There are a variety of uses for ultrasound. Examples include:

Diagnostic/screening uses (examples)

  • OB/GYN
  • Cardiology
  • Liver, kidney gallbladder
  • Breast
  • Eye

Procedure uses

  • Ultrasound-guided needle biopsy: uses a guided needle to extract cells for laboratory testing
  • Ultrasound-guided needle aspiration: uses a guided needle to to extract fluid from areas that need to be drained (for example, abscesses, ascites)
  • Ultrasound-assisted intravenous access: used when an IV line is required and veins are difficult to access; ultrasound can be used to assist in finding larger veins

Therapeutic uses

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL): used to break up kidney stones or gallbladder stones
  • High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU): used to treat diseases or for targeted drug therapy

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