Ultrasound Imaging at Treasure Valley Hospital
While ultrasound imaging is most strongly associated with pregnancy, the technology is versatile and useful both as a diagnostic and a therapeutic tool in many situations. The main advantage of ultrasound is that it is a noninvasive way for doctors to observe internal structures. It does not expose patients to radiation like x-rays do, and it does not leave any scars or require recovery time.
How Ultrasound Imaging Works
As the name suggests, ultrasound imaging uses high frequency sound waves to produce images. A transducer emits sound waves and receives the echoes that bounce back when these waves hit organs and internal structures. A computer then translates the echoes into images and displays them on a screen.
When it is used as a treatment tool, higher frequency sound waves are typically utilized to affect specific tissue.
Ultrasound Imaging Uses
In addition to its use during pregnancy, ultrasound is a versatile diagnostic tool. Doctors use it to gain insight into pain or swelling of internal organs caused by infection or trauma. It is also used to observe structures of the eyes, to investigate the robustness of bone, and to observe breast tissue (such as during a biopsy). Doctors are able to monitor valve function and diagnose heart problems using ultrasound, and to view tissue damage after a heart attack. Doppler ultrasound allows doctors to find clots and observe blood flow through vessels and organs.
The technology can be used during surgeries and biopsies to guide doctors as they work. Interestingly, researchers are testing the use of non-invasive ultrasound to replace liver biopsies.
As a treatment tool, therapeutic ultrasound utilizes targeted, very high intensity sound waves to heat, move, or even destroy tissue (in the case of tumors). Researchers are currently studying a technique called "histotripsy" which uses short, high intensity sound wave bursts to dissolve blood clots.
What to Expect
There are a few ultrasound examinations in which the transducer is introduced internally, but most ultrasound images are taken externally. The procedure is painless and usually does not require any special preparation.
At the beginning of the procedure, a specially trained sonographer will apply a gel to your skin. This gel prevents air from getting between your skin and the transducer, allowing clear transmission and reception of sound waves. During the procedure, the practitioner will move the transducer over the part of your body they need to observe.
Preparing For An Ultrasound
Abdomen Ultrasound Imaging
Nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours prior to exam.
Pelvic Ultrasound Imaging
Must drink at least 32 oz of water 1 hour prior to exam and do not void. Your bladder will need to be full for your exam.
Renal Ultrasound Imaging
Must drink 16 oz of water 1 hour prior to exam and do not void.
The Future of Ultrasound
Ultrasound continues to be an extremely useful diagnostic tool, and new developments will allow for smaller, cheaper, and higher resolution ultrasound machines. It will become more common for first responders to have portable units that allow them a much better understanding of internal injuries.