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Uses of Ultrasound Technology in Medicine

Ultrasound technology has been around for a long time. The first medical paper written about it was published in 1942 by Doctor Karl Theodore Dussik of Austria. However, it was Professor Ian Donald of Scotland who developed the medical technology and practical uses for it in the 1950s. Since then, ultrasound has been used to monitor fetal development, diagnose heart conditions, detect cancer, and a wide range of other health conditions.

Ultrasound is a safe alternative to other methods that use radiation to view interior structures of the body. It is also faster and generally simpler to use. Here are a few ways ultrasound is used in the medical industry.

Women (Gynecology) and Fetal Health (Obstetrics)

  • Identify and monitor tumors in breasts or the uterus
  • Determine due date by measuring fetal size
  • See how the baby is positioned prior to delivery
  • Monitor the development of the placenta to make sure it is not growing abnormally
  • Determine the number of fetuses in the womb
  • Find out the sex of the baby
  • Monitoring fetal growth and development; checking for abnormalities
  • Making sure the embryo has not implanted in the Fallopian tubes (ectopic pregnancy)
  • Monitoring the fetus during risky procedures such as an amniocentesis
  • Monitoring the amniotic fluid

Cardiology

  • Looking at the structures of the heart to identify abnormalities
  • Measuring blood pressure and monitoring its flow though the heart and blood vessels

Urology

  • Early detection of prostate cancer
  • Finding and measuring kidney stones
  • Checking blood flow in the kidneys

Ultrasound is increasingly being used in emergency rooms because of its ability to generate images rapidly.

Ultrasound Side Effects

One concern many women have about ultrasounds is whether or not they affect the fetus in-vitro. When done correctly, ultrasound is safe for mother and baby. However, there have been reports of babies born with low birth weights to women who have had frequent ultrasounds while pregnant. There are two theories that may explain this phenomenon:

  • Cavitation (bubble formation) – Heat generated by the ultrasound causes dissolved gasses
  • Heat development – Ultrasound energy is absorbed into the surrounding tissues which increases the local temperature

In all of the documented studies conducted on the affects of ultrasound on fetuses, the proposed adverse affects have not been substantiated. However, there is no reason to court risks. Ultrasounds should only be used when medically necessary.