The Ultrasound: How It Works
While we’ve all seen ultrasound pictures of our own children or perhaps the children of friends, most people don’t know exactly how an ultrasound machine produces images.
As the name suggests, it’s all about sound. Ultrasound waves are simply sound waves that the human ear cannot detect. The ultrasound technician uses a probe which is placed on the skin, and this probe sends out pulses of ultrasound waves. This sound reflects off of human tissue as an echo. The echo is then used to create an image.
In many ways, it is similar to echolocation. This is what happens when bats and other animals use sound to help them identify objects that they cannot see. Sonar is another example of how sound waves are bounced off of objects in order to locate them. With an ultrasound machine, the importance is not just in locating an object but also studying it for medical purposes.
Obviously, it is standard practice for women to undergo one or more ultrasound exams during their pregnancy. However, many other doctors use ultrasound technology to study other parts of the body, including organs such as the heart. The ultrasound provides an excellent, non-invasive way to look for a wide variety of medical issues. It also has an advantage over x-rays in that no radiation is transmitted to the patient during the test. Cardiologists, urologists, gynecologists and obstetricians are some of the doctors that use ultrasounds, but emergency room doctors and emergency medical technicians also sometimes use these machines, particularly hand-held or portable ultrasounds.
A standard ultrasound usually has several different parts. The part that comes into contact with our body is known as a transducer probe, and this is the piece that actually sends out the sound waves and then receives the echo once it reaches its target within our body, which might be a fetus or perhaps the heart. An ultrasound machine also includes a computer and a monitor to display the pictures. Usually, there is a printer as well, either as part of the whole machine or connected by cables. The computers also allow the technician to place the images on CDs.