Uses for Ultrasound – Part 1
Ultrasound imaging is an interesting modality for visualizing certain organs and conditions. It works by transmitting harmless sound waves and then recording how they scatter or even bounce back when they hit the tissues. It is non-invasive (the probe is placed on the skin or mucosal surface) and uses no radiation.
Ultrasound works best in situations where there is something for the sound waves to bounce off of – i.e., solid tissue or fluid. It does not work well in
organs that are predominantly filled with air.
In the abdomen it is useful for imaging the liver, kidneys, and spleen. In fact, liver surgeons often during surgery place a sterile probe on the liver surface to get a better look at the eight anatomical sections of the liver. In the pelvis it is the screening imaging of choice for the uterus and ovaries.
It also works extremely well when used on fluid-filled spaces. This would include the gallbladder, the heart, aorta and vena cava. It is used to determine whether a mass is solid or cystic. Trauma surgeons use a protocol called a FAST exam (focused abdominal study in trauma) in the trauma bay that uses ultrasound to detect if there is blood in the pelvis, next to the liver or spleen, or in the pericardium, which is the sac around the heart.
It is not a good method for evaluating the lungs (although it is very good at detecting pleural fluid or fluid around the lungs), bone, or bowel.
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