Ultrasound Scans (USS)
An ultrasound scan, also known as ultrasonography or sonography, is a non-invasive imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce real-time images of the internal structures of the body. It is commonly used in medical practice for diagnostic purposes. Here’s some important information about ultrasound scans:
Ultrasound scans are used to visualise and evaluate various organs, tissues and structures within the body. They are commonly used to examine the abdomen, pelvis, reproductive organs, thyroid gland, heart, blood vessels and developing fetus during pregnancy. Ultrasound can help diagnose conditions such as gallstones, kidney stones, tumours, cysts, cardiac abnormalities and monitor fetal growth and development.
During an ultrasound scan, a small handheld device called a transducer is moved over the skin in the area of interest. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves, which penetrate the body and bounce back as echoes when they encounter different tissues. These echoes are detected by the transducer and converted into images that are displayed on a monitor in real-time. The images can be still or in motion, allowing the healthcare professional to assess the structure and function of the area being examined.
Ultrasound scans are generally considered safe and do not involve exposure to ionising radiation, unlike X-rays or CT scans. The sound waves used in ultrasound are harmless and non-invasive. The procedure is well-tolerated by most patients, including pregnant women and children. However, the use of ultrasound contrast agents or prolonged exposure in certain situations may carry some risks and these considerations are carefully evaluated by the healthcare provider.
Types of Ultrasound
There are different types of ultrasound scans used depending on the area being examined and the specific clinical question. Some common types include:
- Abdominal ultrasound: Evaluates the organs in the abdomen, such as the liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen and pancreas.
- Pelvic ultrasound: Examines the organs in the pelvis, including the uterus, ovaries, bladder and prostate gland.
- Transvaginal ultrasound: Involves the insertion of a small transducer into the vagina to obtain detailed images of the female reproductive system.
- Doppler ultrasound: Measures the speed and direction of blood flow through blood vessels and can help evaluate circulation, detect blood clots and assess the health of the heart.
- Obstetric ultrasound: Used during pregnancy to monitor fetal development, assess the placenta and detect any potential abnormalities
Advantages and Limitations
Ultrasound scans have several advantages. They are safe, non-invasive and do not involve exposure to radiation. They provide real-time imaging, allowing for dynamic assessment of structures and functions. However, ultrasound scans have limitations. They may not provide detailed visualisation of structures that are located deep within the body or behind bones. Additionally, the interpretation of ultrasound images relies on the expertise and experience of the sonographer or radiologist.
Ultrasound scans play a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring various medical conditions. They are often used as an initial imaging modality due to their safety, versatility and real-time imaging capabilities.