What Is Ultrasonic Medical Imaging?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 12 August 2019
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Ultrasonic medical imaging is a diagnostic imaging technique that uses sound waves to capture images of the internal organs and other structures. During an ultrasonic medical imaging procedure, a transponder gel is applied to the area being imaged, and then a hand-held wand is placed over the area to capture the images. This procedure is commonly performed on pregnant women to evaluate the progress of the baby. The ultrasound test can also capture the motion of the baby's heartbeat.

Since radiation is not used in the ultrasonic medical imaging procedure, it is considered very safe. In addition, it is often used on babies and young children who are susceptible to the effects of ionizing radiation. Ultrasonic medical imaging uses sound waves that bounce off various structures to obtain images. In addition, the sound waves can sometimes determine if a tumor or cyst is solid or fluid filled. This is why ultrasonic medical imaging is frequently used to rule out breast cancer.

Cardiologists use ultrasonic medical imaging to evaluate the heart, its valves, and surrounding anatomy. This type of ultrasonic medical imaging is called an echocardiogram. During an echocardiogram, the patient lies on his left side, and after the conductive gel has been applied, the technician uses the wand to capture various images of the heart. This test is valuable in diagnosing such conditions as mitral valve prolapse, a condition where the heart valves do not open and close effectively.


Occasionally, ultrasonic medical imaging is used to rule out certain gynecological conditions. Although the gynecological ultrasound procedure is frequently performed like any other ultrasound scan, a different type of ultrasound test is occasionally used. This test is called a transvaginal ultrasound, where the wand is inserted directely into the vaginal area to determine the presence of endometrial, vaginal, or cervical abnormalities.

Typically, there is no preparation needed before an ultrasound, however, sometimes, especially in pregnant women, large amounts of water must be consumed prior to the test. This is to make the bladder full so that it can move out of the way and not obscure the uterus. When the bladder is not full, it can lie near the uterus, limiting the physician's view. Although the patient may complain of fullness and the intense need to urinate, she is rarely in pain, and can void once the test has been completed.



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