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How Ultrasound Works.

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Introduction

How Ultrasound Works by Craig C. Freudenrich, Ph.D. There are many situations in which ultrasound is performed. Perhaps you are pregnant, and your obstetrician wants you to have an ultrasound to check on the developing baby or determine the due date. Maybe you are having problems with blood circulation in a limb or your heart, and your doctor has requested a Doppler ultrasound to look at the blood flow. Ultrasound has been a popular medical imaging technique for many years. Photo courtesy Philips Research Ultrasound examination during pregnancy In this edition of How Stuff Works, we will look at how ultrasound works, what type of ultrasound techniques are available and what each technique can be used for. What is Ultrasound? Ultrasound or ultrasonography is a medical imaging technique that uses high frequency sound waves and their echoes. The technique is similar to the echolocation used by bats, whales and dolphins, as well as SONAR used by submarines. In ultrasound, the following events happen: 1. The ultrasound machine transmits high-frequency (1 to 5 megahertz) sound pulses into your body using a probe. 2. The sound waves travel into your body and hit a boundary between tissues (e.g. between fluid and soft tissue, soft tissue and bone). ...read more.

Middle

The commands from the operator are translated into changing electric currents that are applied to the piezoelectric crystals in the transducer probe. Display The display is a computer monitor that shows the processed data from the CPU. Displays can be black-and-white or color, depending upon the model of the ultrasound machine. Keyboard/Cursor Ultrasound machines have a keyboard and a cursor, such as a trackball, built in. These devices allow the operator to add notes to and take measurements from the data. Disk Storage The processed data and/ or images can be stored on disk. The disks can be hard disks, floppy disks, compact discs (CDs) or digital video discs (DVDs). Typically, a patient's ultrasound scans are stored on a floppy disk and archived with the patient's medical records. Printers Many ultrasound machines have thermal printers that can be used to capture a hard copy of the image from the display. Different Types of Ultrasound The ultrasound that we have described so far presents a two dimensional image, or "slice," of a three dimensional object (fetus, organ). Two other types of ultrasound are currently in use, 3D ultrasound imaging and Doppler ultrasound. 3D Ultrasound Imaging In the past two years, ultrasound machines capable of three-dimensional imaging have been developed. ...read more.

Conclusion

4. The ultrasonographer covers the probe with a plastic cover. 5. He/she passes the probe over your skin to obtain the required images. Depending upon the type of exam, the probe may be inserted into you. 6. You may be asked to change positions to get better looks at the area of interest. 7. After the images have been acquired and measurements taken, the data is stored on disk. You may get a hard copy of the images. 8. You are given a towelette to clean up. 9. You get dressed. The Future of Ultrasound As with other computer technology, ultrasound machines will most likely get faster and have more memory for storing data. Transducer probes may get smaller, and more insertable probes will be developed to get better images of internal organs. Most likely, 3D ultrasound will be more highly developed and become more popular. The entire ultrasound machine will probably get smaller, perhaps even hand-held for use in the field (e.g. paramedics, battlefield triage). One exciting new area of research is the development of ultrasound imaging combined with heads-up/virtual reality-type displays that will allow a doctor to "see" inside you as he/she is performing a minimally invasive or non-invasive procedure such as amniocentesis or biopsy. For more information on ultrasound, see the Links section. ...read more.

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