Ultrasound is a non-invasive medical diagnostic technique that uses sound waves to create images of the inside of your body.
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An ultrasound scan is an imaging technique used to visualise internal organs, or be used in tandem with other procedures such as biopsies. The procedure allows the observer to view the organ/tissues in real time. Latest developments in the field have allowed the images can be viewed in 3D or 4D.
Ultrasound scans can be used to view most internal organs such as: the heart, gallbladder, liver, kidneys, pancreas, uterus, ovaries, prostate, blood vessels. Scans can also be done inside the body, where the probe can be inserted through an opening in your body. For example:
Transesophageal echocardiogram: A transducer probe is inserted through your esophagus to capture images of your heart.
Transrectal/Transvaginal ultrasound: A transducer probe is inserted into your rectum/vagina to view your prostate in the former case, and your uterus and ovaries in the latter case. They are also used to view the fetus in pregnant women, guide needle biopsies, and be used to diagnose heart conditions in a procedure known as an echocardiogram.
In 1960s, the Doppler ultrasound scan was invented which allowed for blood flow to be measured. The flowing blood causes a change in pitch of the reflected sound wave which is measured by the ultrasound. This was helpful in diagnosing blood clots, and other deformities of the blood vessels.
An ultrasound machine consists of a small transducer probe, which is connected to a computer where the visualization can be seen. In addition it has a transducer pulse controller and generator. The probe sends out high frequency sounds in the range 2-18 megahertz and when these sound waves hit an organ or tissue they bounce back and are measured by the transducer and sent to the computer. These measurements can help determine the distance, size and shape of the object to be visualised.
When you come in for a scan, the nurse will ask you to remove all your jewellery and change into a hospital gown. The nurse will then apply a gel on the area to be scanned, this acts as a conductive medium which allows the sound waves from the transducer to travel easier through the skin and reach the object to be scanned.
Ultrasound is a safe procedure, and does not use ionizing radiation or radioactive tracers. But it is a source of energy and most national and international health institutions have set out some limits on the use of these scanners.
The cost of a treatment depends on a variety of factors that vary between countries such as the cost of living, exchange rate and the regulations present in the country.
Below are the average prices for an abdominal ultrasound scan in various countries.
Ultrasound Scan is offered in 7 countries