Ultrasounds - Not Just For Pregnant Women
Updated on 12 October 2016

You don’t have to be pregnant to get an ultrasound. Yes, typically the most common use of an ultrasound is to take a sneak peek at the baby growing in an expectant mother but there are many other uses and types of ultrasounds out there.

Ultrasound or also known as sonography uses sound waves to create images to have a better picture of what’s happening inside your body. It’s kind of how whales communicate with each other or how submarines detect things under water; the ultrasound emits these sound waves and what echoes back can determine the shape, size and even consistency of the tissues and organs in the body. The ultrasound technicians are specially trained to perform the scan and then a radiologist or doctor interprets it.

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Ultrasound Uses

  • Pregnancy – The most common use is to check on the baby’s progress. Early on you can check if you are having one or multiple babies, predict due dates and check for anything not normal. Having ultrasounds throughout pregnancy can help monitor if there are any potential problems such as birth defects, breech positioning, placental issues and more. For parents, they can request to check for the baby’s gender as well. Then just before delivery, doctors can use an ultrasound to estimate how large the baby is.
  • Diagnostics – Ultrasounds can scan for wide variety of conditions that affect many parts of the body. If you have any issues with your heart, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, eyes etc. an ultrasound can detect it. However, sound waves don’t work too well through dense bone or parts of the body that hold air such as the bowel.
  • Medical Procedures – When you need to have a biopsy for testing, a doctor needs to remove a bit of tissue from a precise area. This is where the ultrasound comes in to assist the doctor pin point the exact location they will extract from.
  • Therapeutic Applications – If you have a soft-tissue injury, an ultrasound can be used to detect and treat the damage.

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Ultrasound Types

  • Surface – An ultrasound uses a device called a transducer, it is sometimes used on the surface of the skin.
  • Transvaginal – A transducer wand is inserted into a woman to check the uterus and ovaries.
  • Transrectal – This is sometimes used to diagnose prostate conditions.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram – The transducer probe is inserted into the esophagus to get clearer images of the heart.

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Ultrasound Imaging

  • Doppler – This can show images of the blood flow through vessels.
  • Bone Sonography – This is used to diagnose osteoporosis.
  • Echocardiograms – As mentioned this is used to view the heart.
  • 3D Imaging – As the name implies this gives a three-dimensional view since traditional ultrasounds are flat two-dimensional.
  • 4D Imaging ­– This can show 3D images in motion.

Ultrasounds are great. They can give a clearer image of what’s going on in your body. Like, you’re literally looking inside your body. It’s generally painless and doesn’t need any needles or incisions. There’s no radiation unlike a X-ray or a CT scan. Also, they are widely accessible and more affordable than other methods. So, on your next check-up, if the doctor requests you get an ultrasound, don’t be surprised.

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