Learn Exactly How Ultrasound Imaging Works

by Michael Minton

If you have ever been to a clinic, chances are good that you have seen an ultrasound imaging machine. The most common encounter with an ultrasound machine is when someone is pregnant and they decide to see the condition of the baby. Needless to say, that’s not its only function; there are lots of other. In this article, we will answer your question, “How is ultrasound used in medical imaging?”

What is Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is nothing but sound waves with frequencies higher than an average human’s audible limit of hearing. It’s not higher in its physical properties than the normal sound that we hear every day. An average healthy person’s hearing limit is 20khz and ultrasound imaging device work from 20khz to many gigahertz. American National Standards Institute defines ultrasound as, “sound at frequencies greater than 20khz”.

How Does Ultrasound Imaging Work?

Sonographers operate ultrasound imaging machines but the images are evaluated by cardiologists, radiologists, etc. Now let us tell you how it works: The sonographer holds a probe or a transducer to the patient’s skin and it transmits high-frequency sound pulses into the body. When the sound enters the body, it bounces between soft tissues and organs. Some of the sound waves get reflected back to the probe and the rest go further into the body to bounce into other soft tissues and organs.

The reflected waves are sent to the machine and it calculates the distance using the speed of sound and the time of each echo’s return. The machine then turns the distances and the intensities of echoes into a 2D image which we call an ultrasound image. This is done in a matter of seconds and in a typical ultrasound, millions of echoes and waves are transferred every second. The probe can be moved along the patient’s body to get a different angle to the image.

Uses of the Ultrasound Imaging

Ultrasound imaging is used to diagnose and guidance before treatment. It’s used to examine internal organs, e.g. liver, kidneys, thyroid glands, pancreas, ovaries, gallbladder, spleen, etc. It is used to determine whether the lump in the patient’s body is a tumor or not; it could be cancerous but it may be just a cyst filled with fluid.

Ultrasound is also used in needle biopsies. Needle biopsy is a procedure where samples of human cells are obtained from the body to test them in the laboratories. Ultrasound is commonly used in pregnancy- to determine how the baby is doing, its movements, etc.; it’s also used during the treatment of breast cancer. It’s used to treat a wide variety of heart problems, e.g. valve problems, and congestive heart failure, determine the damage after a heart attack, etc. The ultrasound used for heart conditions is called, “endocardiogram” or echo.


Hopefully, you have the answer to your question, “How is ultrasound used in medical imaging?” Ultrasound is a very useful item for doctors to diagnose their patients and give them good medical treatment. It gives us real-time imaging which is very useful. An ultrasound imaging procedure is harmless and it doesn’t even require special preparation. Since it’s non-invasive, patients don’t feel scared of it, too.

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