Friday, January 28, 2022

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Ultrasound works pretty much like the active sonar the Navy uses to find submarines; a sound wave is sent out and the echos are recorded and analyzed.  Unlike the deep ‘ping’ you hear in the movies from the sonar on submarines and destroyers, the sounds used in ultrasound machines are very high pitched, beyond the range of human hearing.  In fact, that’s why they are called ‘ultrasounds.’  The high frequency of the sound means it has a very short wavelength, and a more detailed image can be generated.

 When you are having a study, the technician will hold a device called a ‘transducer’ against the area to be studied.  The transducer emits the sound and picks up the echoes.  Since the sound is pitched far above human hearing, you won’t hear it.   The machine will convert the echoes into a picture that shows what is inside you.  Usually the technician will put a gel on your body where s/he will be using the transducer; the gel helps the sound get from the transducer through your skin more easily.  The technician will move the transducer around to get views from various angles.

 Ultrasounds are often used during pregnancy to determine the date of pregnancy and evaluate the health and development of the fetus.  Ultrasound it is also used for looking at other parts of they body, including the carotid arteries in your neck and other internal organs in the abdomen.  If you are having a pregnancy study, it is important to have a full bladder, as this makes for a much better image.  Most other procedures don’t require any special preparation, but always follow the instructions provided to you before the exam.  Your study will generally last less than 20 minutes.

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