Medical sonography is the process of using sound waves to create pictures of the organs and tissues inside your body. Those images are called sonograms or ultrasounds. You might be familiar with ultrasounds because they’re often used during pregnancy to gauge the development and health of the baby. But medical sonography can also help diagnose a wide variety of health conditions from heart disease to prostate cancer. Along with X-rays, sonography is one of the most commonly used methods of diagnostic imaging. The people who create these images are known as Medical Sonographers and they work closely with physicians who use ultrasounds to assess and diagnose patients.
How Are Medical Sonographs Taken?
Similar to how ships use sonar technology to navigate and detect objects under water, sonograph or ultrasound machines use sound and echoes to construct visual representations of internal organs, tissues, structures, and blood flow. But instead of high frequency sounds emitted through an ocean of water, ultrasound machines use transducers to emit low frequency sounds with smaller wave lengths through your body.
To properly use the machine, a Medical Sonographer first places a water-based gel over the area of your body that needs to be examined. This helps prevent air bubbles from forming that might block the sound waves. Then, they press the transducer against the area as it emits sound waves into your body. The sound waves bounce against your tissues, organs, and bones, creating echoes that are translated into images on a screen. The distance, speed, and direction of the sound waves differ when they bounce off of different objects, and those variables help the computer develop two-dimensional images. For example, if sound waves bounce off a solid tumor, that can appear on the screen as a light-colored area. A soft cyst that absorbs the sound waves would show up as a darker spot.
What Are Ultrasounds Used For?
When a doctor suspects that you might have an illness or disease, ultrasounds are often the go-to imaging method to confirm a diagnosis. Ultrasounds have been used for more than 70 years, and although the images have become more sophisticated, the benefits have remained consistent. They are considered safe since they’re non-invasive and don’t require radiation. Ultrasound machines are also portable, so they can easily be moved around a healthcare facility. Among the health problems ultrasounds can help detect are:
- Heart Disease: Doctors use ultrasound imaging to uncover abnormalities, defects, or a buildup of plaque in the arteries. By detecting these problems early on, doctors can help prevent life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack or stroke.
- Breast and Prostate Cancer: Early detection is key for cancer patients, and ultrasounds can help discover and treat breast and prostate cancer early on. This type of imaging is usually used in conjunction with mammograms and blood tests.
- Gallbladder Stones: An ultrasound can help detect problems with the gallbladder, such as gallbladder stones, cancer, or polyps. Similarly, an ultrasound can help detect kidney stones.
Ultrasound imaging is also used to diagnose nerve damage, torn ligaments, carpal tunnel, and other soft-tissue injuries. And it’s commonly used during pregnancies to check on the health of the fetus and to determine its sex.
How Do I Become a Medical Sonographer?
To become a Medical Sonographer, you need to graduate from an accredited sonography training program and attain certification through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Your program will show you how to use the equipment and provide you with an understanding of medical terminology, scanning techniques, and patient care. Demand for Medical Sonographers is expected to grow faster than average through 2030.
Are you ready to start on the path to an important healthcare career. Charter College now offers an Associate of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography that can prepare you for entry-level work in the industry. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.