The primary use of an ultrasound machine is to examine the organs inside the body. Instead of using radiation to create an image like some diagnostic imaging tools do, ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves, which makes it a safer option.
Another advantage that ultrasound offers over other types of diagnostic imaging tools is that it usually does not require advance preparation. Some ultrasounds will require patients to drink water beforehand so that the doctor can more easily see certain organs, such as the bladder or kidneys.
On average, an ultrasound examination takes about 30 minutes. A variety of ultrasound machines are available, and the type of machine needed largely depends upon the application it is being used for. Read on for more information about four of the most common applications for ultrasound machines.
1. Cardiac Ultrasound
Also known as an echocardiogram, doctors use cardiac ultrasounds to look at the heart muscle and the heart valves. Some of the primary reasons for doing a cardiac ultrasound include assessing the function of the heart, looking for internal symptoms of heart disease, and evaluating the effectiveness of cardiac treatments.
Cardiac ultrasounds are broken down into specific types, which include the following:
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
- Stress echocardiogram
- Dobutamine stress echocardiogram
- Intravascular ultrasound
Doctors order each of these types of cardiac ultrasounds for different reasons. In most cases, a cardiologist decides which type of echocardiogram is necessary in order to obtain specific information about the heart.
2. Vascular Ultrasound
Also called the circulatory system, the body's vascular system is made of up arteries and veins that carry blood throughout the body while delivering oxygen and nutrients to soft tissues. Doctors often use vascular ultrasound to detect blockages or blood clots inside of these important vessels.
A Doppler ultrasound can be used in conjunction with a vascular ultrasound in order to evaluate the flow of blood throughout the arteries and veins of the entire body, including the arms, legs, abdomen, liver, and kidneys.
Besides detecting blockages, the following are some of the most common reasons that doctors order a vascular ultrasound for a patient:
- To determine whether or not angioplasty can benefit the patient
- To evaluate whether or not a procedure to bypass the blood vessels has been successful
- To determine if the patient has an aneurysm
Doctors also perform a vascular ultrasound when they need to place a catheter in a vein or artery. Using ultrasound in this circumstance is beneficial as it reduces the risk of complications, such as bleeding or nerve damage, during the placement of the catheter.
3. Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN) Ultrasound
The most well-known type of ultrasound is an obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) ultrasound, which is used to evaluate the growth of a baby inside the mother's womb. This type of ultrasound can be beneficial for a mother-to-be as it can help her know that the baby is developing normally.
Other benefits an OB-GYN ultrasound provide include:
- It can accurately determine gestational age, placental location, and viability of the baby.
- It offers a noninvasive method to monitor pregnancies that are at risk of fetal anemia.
- It can detect certain birth defects, such as spina bifida, congenital heart defects, and cleft palate.
- It can detect whether or not more than one baby is in the womb.
Ultrasounds are usually performed between 18 and 22 weeks gestation. If a problem is detected, the doctor may order frequent ultrasounds throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. In some instances, other types of OB-GYN ultrasounds, such as trans-vaginal, are used early in the pregnancy to get a better look at the baby in its earliest stages.
4. Musculoskeletal (MSK) Ultrasound
Doctors normally use ultrasounds to look at certain organs inside the body, but sometimes the physician needs to see the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. This is where the MSK ultrasound comes in. MSK ultrasound can be especially beneficial for diagnosing sprains, strains, inflammation, and other soft-tissue injuries.
Doctors can also use MSK ultrasound to detect the following:
- Abnormal masses or fluid collection in the muscles
- Nerve entrapment or compressed nerves
- Benign and malignant tumors of the soft tissue
- Foreign bodies, such as glass or splinters, in the soft tissue
Medical technicians can use the MSK ultrasound to detect cysts, hernias, and dislocations as well. Oftentimes MSK ultrasound is used in conjunction with other types of diagnostic testing, such as x-rays, so that doctors can determine if the bones or skeleton have been affected as well.
If you are a medical provider in need of either a new or used ultrasound machine, KeeboMed welcomes the opportunity to meet all of your ultrasound needs. We have machines available for all applications, including vascular, OB-GYN, MSK, and cardiac ultrasounds. We also have ultrasound machines with full-color Doppler, portable, 3D, or 4D capabilities. Contact us today to see how we can help you.