Ultrasound Scans: How Do They Work?

Ultrasound Scans: How Do They Work?

Ultrasound Scans How Do They Work

Before medical technology developed into what it is today, doctors had to literally feel their patients. They had to put their hands on a patient to feel the affected area to determine what was wrong. This was how doctors practiced medicine until 1956. An obstetrician, Ian Donald, and an engineer, Tom Brown, wanted to use military sonar from WWII in a clinical environment, and this how they developed the first ultrasound machine. Siemens was developing a similar technology at the time, and in 1958, they debuted an ultrasound machine that allowed doctors to view the human heart.


Ultrasound Scans: How Do They Work?

Ultrasound, also known as sonography, is a painless, non-invasive way to look inside a patient and give a diagnosis. It’s a very effective technique doctors and medical experts use to learn about what’s happening inside a patient’s body without opening them up. Ultrasound is useful in any medical situation where a medical professional must view internal organs, but it has become closely associated with pregnancy. It’s used to monitor fetal development during the entire pregnancy to make sure the baby is healthy.


An ultrasound machine includes a transducer probe that sends sound waves into the body and receives echoes. Sound waves pass through the skin, and those waves bounce off liquid, bone, tissue, and organs to produce these echoes. The data from the echoes bounce back to the probe and into a computer, which performs calculations necessary to create and display an image. The computer essentially works to interpret the waves returning to the probe and converts them into electrical signals. The calculations used to display the image are based on the speed of sound and how long it took the echo to reach the probe.


3D Imaging

Traditional scanners can only display a two-dimensional image. Leading companies have produced more advanced scanners that can take the same information and create a three-dimensional image. The 3D imaging uses the same technology and information from the probe, but it takes this data from multiple angles instead. The data is used in an algorithm to create images through a process called surface rendering. Sophisticated software interprets the reflections to produce an accurate image of the subject. When used to look at a baby, the computer can delineate body and facial features to create a very detailed 3D picture.

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