Dr. Hanlon enrolled in an intensive ultrasound course that took him to Sound Eklin in Arlington, Texas for four weeks. The course was an extensive study of both abdominal and cardiac ultrasound and included many tests and even homework! Dr. Hanlon loves to learn new things so this was a very exciting and challenging course for him. He believes that ultrasound can be an incredible tool in diagnosing abdominal and cardiac conditions with little stress to his patients. “Learning the latest technology and techniques helps to improve the quality of medicine that we can provide our patients”, Dr. Hanlon says.
So what is an Ultrasound?
An ultrasound procedure is a noninvasive (the skin is not pierced) diagnostic procedure used to assess soft tissue structures such as muscles, blood vessels, and organs.
Ultrasound uses a transducer that sends out ultrasonic sound waves at a frequency too high to be heard. When the transducer is placed at certain locations and angles, the ultrasonic sound waves move through the skin and other body tissues to the organs and structures within. The sound waves bounce off the organs like an echo and return to the transducer. The transducer picks up the reflected waves, which are then converted by a computer into an electronic picture of the organs or tissues under study.
A clear conducting gel is placed between the transducer and the skin to allow for smooth movement of the transducer over the skin and to eliminate air between the skin and the transducer for the best sound conduction.
Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function (in “real time,” like a live TV broadcast), and to assess blood flow through various vessels. Ultrasound procedures are often used to examine many parts of the body such as the abdomen and the vascular system. During pregnancy, ultrasounds are performed to evaluate the development of the fetus(es).
Dr. Hanlon performing an ultrasound on Mary Grace.
What are the different types of ultrasound procedures?
Different ultrasound techniques exist for different conditions. Examples of some of the more common types of ultrasound examinations include the following:
- Doppler ultrasound. Used to see structures inside the body, while evaluating blood flow at the same time. Doppler ultrasound can determine if there are any problems within the veins and arteries.
- Vascular ultrasound. Used to see the vascular system and its function, including detection of blood clots.
- Echocardiogram. Used to see the heart and its valves, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the heart’s pumping ability.
- Abdominal ultrasound. Used to detect any abnormalities of the abdominal organs (i.e., kidneys, liver, pancreas, gallbladder), such as gallstones or tumors.
- Renal ultrasound. Used to examine the kidneys and urinary tract.
- Obstetrical ultrasound. Used to monitor the development of the fetus.
How are ultrasounds performed?
Generally, an ultrasound procedure follows this process:
- In almost all cases, an ultrasound is performed while the patient is sedated.
- The area under assessment is shaved so that there is a smooth surface for the transducer to perform properly.
- A gel-like substance will be smeared on the area of the body to undergo the ultrasound (the gel acts as a conductor).
- Using a transducer, a tool that sends ultrasound waves, the ultrasound will be sent through the patient’s body.
- The sound from the transducer will be reflected off structures inside the body, and the information from the sound waves will be analyzed by a computer.
- The computer will create an image of these structures on a television screen. The moving pictures can be recorded.
GVH Business Manager