Ultrasound imaging (sonography) is a diagnostic medical procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce dynamic visual images of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body. The sound waves are transmitted to the area to be examined and the returning echoes are captured to provide the physician with a ‘live’ image of the area. Ultrasound does not require the use of ionizing radiation, nor the injection of nephrotoxic contrast agents.
Ultrasound has several advantages which make it ideal in numerous situations, in particular, studies of the function of moving structures in real-time. It can be used to examine many parts of the body, such as the abdomen, heart and blood vessels, breasts, muscles, carotid arteries, and female reproductive system including pregnancy and prenatal diagnostics (Figure 1)1. Because of its non-ionizing nature, it is a good choice for imaging when radiation-sensitivity is a concern, such as in pediatrics or in women of child-bearing age.
Ultrasound is based on sonar, and uses a machine with a computer processor to create Ultrasound images. A transducer is placed on the area of the body to be visualized. Returning sound waves, or echoes, are processed through the computer and converted into images.
The specific form of Ultrasound that is used to examine the heart is known as echocardiography and allows the heart valves and blood flow to be visualized.