Seven ways ultrasounds are used for non-invasive screens

Most people associate ultrasound screenings with pregnancy. However, ultrasounds can be used in a number of ways that can help if you are experiencing pain, swelling or other symptoms that require a view from the inside of your body. 

Tandy Keen, St. Joseph’s/Candler sonographer

An ultrasound scan, also known as sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to produce high-resolution images. Sonographers and physicians can use these images to see organs and soft tissues inside the body while looking for anything abnormal. An ultrasound is a non-invasive, painless procedure that does not expose patients to radiation.

“Every hospital and outpatient center performs ultrasounds now so it’s very common,” says Tandy Keen, St. Joseph’s/Candler sonographer. “Ultrasounds do not cause any pain and are not harmful. Most require little to no patient preparation.”

Keen says the majority of ultrasound scans taken at St. Joseph’s/Candler examine the veins and arteries, gallbladder, liver and kidney. Pregnancy scans only account for about 20 percent of our volume, Keen says.

Here are seven ways ultrasounds are used for non-invasive screens:

1. Breast ultrasound is used to further evaluate an abnormality found on a mammogram or physical examination. Breast ultrasound also is an important tool to allow doctors to guide a needle during a biopsy or aspiration.

2. During pregnancy, an ultrasound can determine a number of things including the number of fetuses in the womb, an ectopic pregnancy, make sure the fetus is not breeched, determine the sex of the fetus and monitor the growth of the fetus.

3. A cardiac ultrasound, also known as a standard echocardiogram, allows for a quick assessment of the heart. Doctors can see inside the heart to identify abnormalities like aortic valve stenosis, atrial and ventricular septal defects (hole in the heart) and transposition of the great arteries.

4. Doctors can measure blood flow through the kidneys using an ultrasound. This allows the visualization of kidney stones prior to shockwave lithotripsy, laser-guided ureteroscopy or percutaneous nephrolithotomy, which requires surgery.

5. Ultrasounds can help doctors determine the cause of swelling or pain. It also can be used to identify infection in any one of the body’s internal organs.

6. St. Joseph’s/Candler also is home to cutting edge technology with the Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS). The EBUS provides physicians with a clearer picture of chest and lung health with a minimally invasive approach. The ultrasound images can help identify lung defects like enlarged lymph nodes, tumors, irregular growths and infections.

7. Ultrasounds help physicians guide biopsies (tissue samples used to identify cancer) and to assess the damage left behind after a heart attack.

Ultrasound is the least invasive or damaging of the various types of medical imaging and requires little or no preparation. For more information on imaging services available at St. Joseph’s/Candler, click here

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