When you hear the word ‘ultrasound’ the first thing that many people think that it’s used for is pregnancy. Few are aware of the myriad of uses for ultrasound technology – and why it’s so awesome.
So what is ultrasound exactly?
Diagnostic ultrasound imaging is commonly called sonography or ultrasonography. Ultrasound is like ordinary sound except it has a frequency higher than human beings can hear (think of a dog whistle). When these sounds are sent into the body, the sound is reflected off internal structures. The returning echoes are received and converted into an image of the internal structures on a viewing screen.
I know what you’re thinking – ‘That’s cool and all, but why would I need one?’
Plenty of reasons! Let’s say, for example, that you are having pain in your abdomen. An ultrasound could help deduce the following:
- To look for causes of upper abdominal pain, including gallstones, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, kidney stones, or blockage in blood vessels of the intestines.
- To look for causes of lower abdominal pain, including appendicitis, inflammation of the small and large intestines, and inguinal hernias.
- To look for abnormalities that may be present in the abdominal organs, such as masses or enlargements in the spleen or liver.
- To evaluate for urinary frequency or incontinence.
- To look for enlargements (aneurysms) of the abdominal aorta.
- To evaluate for problems of flow in the blood vessels of the various abdominal organs.
- To evaluate for thyroid enlargement, nodules or cysts
That’s just a fraction of what an ultrasound could find. It may not provide all of the information your doctor needs, but it’s an excellent starting point.
The best part about ultrasounds is that they are completely painless, generally a quick procedure, and are totally safe.