Ultrasound Machine: A Versatile Medical Tool

When most people think of ultrasounds, they think of its use to detect and monitor unborn children in the womb, but this amazing piece of medical technology has many more applications. For diagnosing and treating many conditions, ultrasound is an unparalleled medical device.

Ultrasound Machine

Ultrasound machines are among the most commonly used diagnostic imaging tools with more than 125 million procedures performed in the U.S. annually, according to the Wall Street Journal. Ultrasounds are only behind radiographic diagnostic procedures which include x-rays, and computed and digital radiography as the most common form of diagnostic imaging procedure.

Ultrasound machines use sound waves to create images of internal organs or processes. A device known as a transducer emits sound at a high frequency, and then records the echoes as sound waves bounce back. This information is relayed to a computer which uses it to create images. Ultrasound technicians know the best methods of using and positioning the devices for optimal imaging. Radiologists and doctors examine and interpret the images to form diagnoses.

Common Uses for Ultrasound

Ultrasound imaging has a variety of medical uses, including:

Detecting pregnancy and monitoring growth – This is the application most commonly associated with ultrasound. Ultrasound, because of its safe, non-invasive nature, is the application of choice to detect pregnancies and to monitor their progress. Ultrasound has a variety of uses for expectant patients. The technology is used not only to detect pregnancies, but also to determine due dates, determine whether twins or other multiples are present, determine whether pregnancies are ectopic, identify potential birth defects, or other issues. Ultrasound technology can also help determine the sex of the baby.

Diagnostic use –Physicians and other medical professionals use ultrasound imaging for many conditions, particularly those impacting organs and soft tissues. Ultrasound imaging is used to diagnose and monitor heart and circulatory conditions. It is also used to diagnose conditions related to the reproductive system, thyroid, kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen, gallbladder and more. Some limitations do apply – ultrasound does not work well when waves are passed through dense bone or areas of the body containing air or gas.

Therapeutic applications – Ultrasound is often used to treat soft-tissue injuries. Sound waves generated by ultrasound can speed up healing of some injuries by stimulating blood flow to those areas. Ultrasound can also be helpful in reducing pain and inflammation. Physicians also use ultrasound to gently massage muscle and tendons in affected areas and soften scar tissue.

Monitoring procedures –Ultrasound machines are also frequently used during medical procedures to help doctors find specific spots in the body. For example, in needle biopsies, doctors will often use ultrasound imaging to guide them to pinpointed areas that they wish to examine. The precision allowed by the ultrasound device allows doctors to more accurately diagnose illnesses such as breast cancer.

Benefits of Using Ultrasound

Medical professionals employ ultrasound devices for several reasons. Some of the most compelling ones include:

Non-invasive – Ultrasound machines require no injections or surgery (in some cases ultrasound devices may be inserted in natural openings of the body, such as in transvaginal ultrasounds or esophageal ultrasounds). Typically the only preparation needed for an exam is the application of some gel used to enhance the device’s ability to create images. These medical devices offer a means for doctors to examine internal organs and structures without having to risk surgery or use chemicals. Ultrasounds are painless, a true benefit for children or other patients wary of medical procedures.

No radiation – Ultrasounds do not use ionizing radiation, making this imaging technology far different than other imaging technologies like x-rays and MRIs. Exposure to radiation is a small, calculated risk, but avoiding its use if possible is preferable.

Imaging advantages – Ultrasound can sometimes detect things other imaging systems cannot. For example, ultrasound can obtain soft tissue images that do not show up well on x-rays.

Cost – Ultrasound technology is becoming less expensive and more accessible as the technology improves. This is particularly beneficial to medical professionals working in underdeveloped areas with little money for high end medical technology.

History of Ultrasound

Ultrasound technology has been with us for the better part of a century. Famed French physicist Pierre Curie’s discovery of piezoelectricity helped start the ball rolling toward ultrasound’s use as an imaging tool. In 1917, Paul Langevin developed a sonographic imaging device that was used to detect submerged enemy submarines in World War I. Continued research into sonography yielded ultrasound devices used for diagnosis in the 1940s. Karl Dussik, an Austrian neurologist and physicist, was a pioneer in the field.

The earliest B-mode equipment was developed in the late 40s. Douglas Howry, an American radiologist, developed a pulse-echo ultrasonic scanner in 1949. Further developments followed.

Ultrasound truly hit its stride as a diagnostic tool in the 70s , when advances made these medical devices more useful, accessible and affordable for medical facilities. Further advances came in the 90s with the development of 3D and 4D ultrasound. 3D ultrasounds create 3D images of the object being imaged, while 4D ultrasounds create a live video effect of the area examined.

Recent Trends

Medical device makers continue to refine ultrasound technology and improve its utility as a diagnostic tool. A major development in recent years has been the introduction of portable ultrasound devices. New handheld devices and wireless transducers have made ultrasound imaging more convenient and practical for a variety of purposes, particularly in operating room and emergency room settings.

In addition to miniaturization, ultrasound devices have also improved in terms of the images they can provide. Some recent advances include improved contrast-enhanced imaging, volume imaging, and elastography. New ultrasound devices can give doctors real-time, three-dimensional imaging of internal anatomy, as well as allow them to see blood flow and perfusion.

To learn more about the latest ultrasound machines, contact Medical Device Depot. Unlike other clearing houses for medical equipment, Medical Device Depot has a trained staff of knowledgeable professionals who can answer all customer questions about the company’s ultrasound machines and other medical equipment