Ultrasound / sonography
Most people are familiar with the image of a fetus curled up in a fetal position in its characteristic black and white picture.
If you are, then you know what an ultrasound picture looks like. Interestingly enough, ultrasounds are much more than black and white images printed only when a mother is expecting her baby, they are one of the most widely used diagnostic methods.
Ultrasound scans, sometimes called a sonogram, are used for detecting tumors in the body organs, measuring the flow of blood in a blocked artery and detecting flaws that may be undetectable in the human body.
If you are curious about the connection between ultrasound and the female health or you simply want to learn everything there is about an ultrasound scan, read on.
WHAT IS AN ULTRASOUND?
The phenomenon upon which ultrasound diagnosis was established was originally from nature.
Little mammals like bats use it to locate food and evade objects when flying, and larger ones like dolphins and sharks use it for a similar purpose underwater.
Scientifically, ultrasound is the use of sound waves (high frequency) to make an image of the internal organs of an individual?s body organs.
Compared to other types of scan, ultrasounds do not expose the individual to radiation, since it does not use radioactive materials for its diagnostic checks.
Since the "sonic" in ultrasound means sound, many have often asked why it is impossible to hear the sound of the scan.
The reason is simple - the sound waves produced during an ultrasound scan are higher than a humans? auditory limit.
Although ultrasound frequency varies according to the age of the individual, the ultrasound frequency for adults mostly does not exceed 25khz limit.
An ultrasound scan is performed by an Ultrasound machine which includes a probe and a computer system.
HISTORY OF ULTRASOUND
As far back as the sixth century, philosophers and mathematicians like Pythagoras and his contemporaries began to study the science of sound.
This study was followed by many other studies until when it was used technologically to detect submarines.
Interestingly the first use of the ultrasound technology medically was after the discovery of traducers and the piezoelectric effect in the early nineteenth century.
Enough of history, let us find out more about ultrasounds.
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HOW ULTRASOUND SCANS WORK
Following exposure of the body part to be viewed, a portable device which gives off the sound wave is placed on the desired spot as determined by the sonographer.
Don?t expect to hear any sound, but when the waves contact the different parts of the body, they generate "echoes" that are detected by the probe and turned into a readable image on a monitor.
TYPES OF ULTRASOUND
There are about a dozen different types of ultrasound procedures available. The types of ultrasound are dependent on the organs that will be examined.
Here is a short description of the different types.
1) ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND
As the name implies, abdominal ultrasound is used for examining the internal organs like the liver, spleen, and kidneys. An early abdominal ultrasound can be used to detect the spread of disease or tumors in any of these organs.
2) PELVIC ULTRASOUND
After the abdominal ultrasound, the next common type of ultrasound is the pelvic ultrasound. This type is mostly used to monitor the health of the infant or fetus during pregnancy.
If the patient isn't pregnant, this ultrasound can be used to check out the prostate gland, bladder, ovaries, and the uterus. This is the most common procedure for diagnosing pelvic pains, ovarian and uterine cysts, bladder issues, and several others.
3) TRANSVAGINAL ULTRASOUND
No other scan is more self-explanatory than this one. The probe is inserted via the vagina to make the diagnosis. This one will require that the woman empties her bladder before she goes for the scan. The transvaginal ultrasound may feel quite uncomfortable to some women as the doctor might move the transducer around to get different images.
4) TRANSRECTAL ULTRASOUND
This diagnostic scan is performed via the anus. Like the transvaginal ultrasound, protective cover and a lubricant are also used to prevent abrasion and to allow for easy passage of the probe. Depending on the findings of the scan, a follow-up biopsy may be recommended.
5) CAROTID AND AORTA ULTRASOUND
This is a non-invasive form of ultrasound as the transducer is placed over the infected area, and not ?inserted?. It is used to detect aneurysms(swollen vessels) or blockage of the arteries in the neck, brain and other body parts.
OTHER FORMS OF ULTRASOUND SCANS
Other modalities of ultrasound scan include the thyroid scan, endoscopic ultrasound scan and the popular obstetric ultrasound which is commonly used to visualize the presence, position, and performance of the baby in the womb.
WHAT ELSE IS AN ULTRASOUND USED FOR?
From the different types of ultrasound diagnostic processes listed above, it is easy to know what ultrasounds are used for.
They can be used to diagnose congenital abnormalities in the fetus and equally determine the well-being of your unborn baby.
Also, ultrasound scans can be used alongside needles during biopsies to guide the needle for a safe entry.
They are sometimes used to locate the source and probable cause of pains in the internal organs.
Finally, in blood vessels, they are used to check for blood clots and buildup of plaques in the arteries.
WHAT CAN WE SEE WITH AN ULTRASOUND?
Ultrasound tests have been known to show images of tumors and obstruction in vessels.
They are used to also detect unusual objects in organs such as kidney and gall stones.
In a few situations, an ultrasound scan can reveal the presence of foreign items like an IUCD in the uterus.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR AN ULTRASOUND?
Depending on the procedure, the doctor or sonographer will ask you not to take food or water from two to six hours before the procedure.
In other circumstances, they may ask you to drink large amounts of water and also desist from urinating before and during the examination.
In very special cases, you may receive an injection of a contrast agent before the scan, as this can make some images clearer.
CAN YOU DRINK WATER BEFORE AN ULTRASOUND?
For a pelvic ultrasound, the patient is advised to drink about two to four cups of water before the procedure. This doesn?t apply for others.
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN FROM AN ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND?
An ultrasound scan of the abdomen will show the organs that are contained within the abdomen. These organs can include the pancreas, the spleen, the liver, and the kidneys.
A closer examination will reveal any abnormality in the shape, size and texture of these organs.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR AN ABDOMINAL ULTRASOUND?
Preparations for abdominal ultrasounds vary according to the organ being scanned. General preparation includes putting on a surgical gown.
Other details might involve abstaining from fat ?free meals if organs like the liver, gall bladder, and pancreas are to be examined. Preparation for others also includes water and food consumption or abstinence.
CAN AN ULTRASOUND FIND CANCER IN THE ABDOMEN?
Ultrasound scans can detect abnormalities in the body, but they are not as detailed as CT scans to detect tumors. So it is can be difficult to see cancers within the abdomen with them. However, a suspicion of a tumor or cancer can be made if the echogenicity of the area being scanned is non-typical.
CAN AN ULTRASOUND SCAN SAVE MY LIFE?
Ask Lori Haberstroh, and she will give a resounding ?yes? to your question. After feeling a tiny lump in her breast which she assumed was a cyst, her gynecologist recommended she had mammography done.
Unfortunately, the mammogram, even a 3D mammogram, failed to show anything.
The doctor then suggested an ultrasound ? it was lifesaving. It revealed a black, spikey looking oval mass located almost on the chest wall.
This types of stories happen all the time. In this case, Lori is living proof of the impact that ultrasound can make.