What is Ultrasound Imaging?

What is Ultrasound Imaging?

UltrasoundUltrasound imaging - also called sonography - uses high-frequency sound waves (beyond the range of human hearing) and computer processing to create detailed images of internal organs and other soft-tissue structures inside the body. Unlike imaging techniques based on x-ray, with ultrasound there's no exposure to radiation. It is among the safest of imaging methods, commonly used to monitor pregnancy. The first use of ultrasound for medical purposes in the United States took place in the 1940s. Since then, advances in ultrasound technology have greatly improved quality and imaging capabilities to the point where doctors can now see and record a moving 3D image of an organ or fetus and assess the speed and flow of blood through arteries and veins in real-time. 

Doctors typically prescribe ultrasound testing at Florida Hospital for the following reasons:

  • Determine the source and location of pain, swelling and/or infection
  • Examine internal organs for disease and abnormalities
  • Track the development of a fetus while in the mother's womb
  • Guide minimally invasive surgical procedures and needle biopsies that extract tissue samples for the purpose of diagnosing cancer and other diseases
  • Diagnose a variety of heart conditions and assess damage after a heart attack

Ultrasound scanners produce images from high frequency sound waves, which pass through the skin from a handheld device called a transducer that has been pressed against the skin over the area of study. Inside the body, the sound waves are reflected anywhere changes in tissue density occur, creating an "echo" of sound waves that bounce back to the transducer. Sensors in the transducer convert the echo into electronic impulses, which the computer transforms into digital images. Although typically a non-invasive procedure performed from outside the body, some ultrasound exams use a transducer attached to a probe that is inserted into the body through a natural opening, such as the mouth or rectum.