What is a Medical Sonographer?
Medical sonographers are specially trained to perform specific diagnostic medical procedures. These procedures use high frequency sound waves known as ultrasound to create dynamic visual images of organs, tissues or blood flow within the body, according to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. You may have heard of the procedure being called a sonogram or ultrasound scan.
Medical sonographers use special equipment to examine numerous body parts such as the abdomen, breasts, female reproductive system, prostate, heart and cardiovascular system. Medical sonographers are being used more and more to help detect problems early on that can lead to heart attacks and strokes if left untreated. Medical sonographers also use their skills to help doctors guide fine needle, tissue biopsies, which take cell samples from organs for testing in a lab. These biopsies help patients learn whether or not they have cancer or other diseases. Sonography differs from X-ray technology in that it does not use radiation to create images.
Medical sonographers are not physicians, but they still play a vital role in the health care field. Some are called vascular technologists if they specialize in imaging and tests of blood vessels. In fact, medical sonographers can specialize in many areas, including the abdomen, where evaluations are done on vital organs like the liver, spleen, urinary tract and pancreas; the breast, where the sonographer becomes a skilled mammographer; neurosonology, where sonographers evaluate the brain and spinal cord; and echocardiography, where the sonographer evaluates blood flow of the heart and related blood vessels. Other specializations include ophthalmology, which examines the eyes and surrounding muscles; and obstetrics/gynecology, where the female reproductive system is evaluated.
The images a medical sonographer produces are used by physicians to make medical diagnoses. A medical sonographer produces these images by placing a device called a transducer against the patient’s skin near the body area that’s about to be imaged. The device can transmit and receive sound, which is why future parents can hear their unborn child’s heartbeat via ultrasound. A transducer works by sending streams of high-frequency sound waves into the body, which then echo off internal structures. Sometimes a special gel is applied to the patient’s skin to help in the transmission of these sound waves. The transducer reads the sound waves as they echo off these structures, and a computer then analyzes the sounds to create an image of the structure on a screen. These images can then be recorded on videotape for use in diagnostics by doctors or, in the case of parents-to-be, can be taken home as a lasting memory of a growing life.