Thursday, April 18, 2024
Intro to basic ultrasound scans for beginners.

Intro to basic ultrasound scans for beginners.

Ultrasound Scans: Safe and Effective Way to Detect Health Problems without Invasive Procedures

Ultrasound scans are medical tests that use high-frequency sound waves to detect health problems inside the body without any incision. Unlike other imaging techniques, they do not use radiation, making them a safe and effective tool to capture live images from organs like the bladder, uterus, thyroid, liver, among others.

Explaining how ultrasound works, Dr Mukul Roy, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai said that ultrasound waves are produced by an instrument called a transducer. These waves enter the body and are reflected back. The instrument has special elements, ceramic crystals called piezo electrics, which work on the fundamental principle of the piezoelectric effect.

Uses of Ultrasound Scans

According to Dr Roy, ultrasound scans are used for various purposes, including:

– Monitoring the developing baby in utero in pregnant women. It is also useful in detecting any fetal abnormalities and helps in the early detection of such growth anomalies.
– Screening for breast lumps, especially in younger women. It is used as an adjunct to mammograms for breast cancer screening and early detection of breast cancer.
– Indispensable for abdominal and pelvic pathologies like gall stones, uterine fibroid, ovarian cysts, and other tumors.
– Imaging of a variety of neck and thyroid disorders.
– Useful in prostate disorders like Benign Prostate Hyperplasia, bladder or kidney stones, and other genitourinary issues, including prostate and renal cancers.
– Elastography studies (Fibro scan) wherein the stiffness of tissue is measured to differentiate between tumor and healthy tissue.
– Doppler ultrasound is used to assess the flow of blood in the blood vessels, helping detect clots, blockages, poor functioning valves in the heart, poor blood circulation in the legs, as well as studying abnormalities in vessels called aneurysms.
– Amongst the therapeutic uses, it is used for a variety of ablative procedures like in certain liver tumors. High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is the use of high-frequency focused ultrasonic waves to destroy uterine fibroids and has good results.

Preparing for an Ultrasound Scan

Dr Noorie, a consultant radiologist, shared the basics of ultrasound on Instagram, saying that ultrasound scans use sound waves with higher frequencies that humans can’t hear, usually above 20 kilohertz. She added that it is a diagnostic test, which uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body.

To prepare for the test, one must wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, and for some scans, the doctor may advise not to eat or drink for up to 12 hours before the exam. For others, the doctor may ask the patient to drink up to six glasses of water two hours before the appointment and avoid urinating, ensuring the bladder is full when the scan begins.

Advantages of Ultrasound Scans

According to Dr Roy, the biggest advantage of ultrasound scans is that they are non-invasive, well-tolerated, and safe. They do not use ionizing radiation, hence have no risk of radiation exposure and related side effects. Most of the procedures are done on an outpatient basis and do not need prolonged admission in hospitals. Unlike surgical procedures, they do not have a lot of morbidity associated with them.

Limitations of Ultrasound Scans

Dr Roy added that ultrasound scan is not an ideal modality of imaging when organs have air, gas, or bones behind them. They are not the imaging of choice for lungs, brain, and bones.


Ultrasound scans are safe and effective tools to detect health problems without invasive procedures. They have various uses, and preparing for the tests is relatively simple. Their non-invasiveness and low risk of radiation exposure make them suitable for many patients. Despite some limitations, ultrasound scans are among the most valuable diagnostic tools for a variety of diseases and medical conditions.


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