Much like a submarine maps its surroundings using radar or a bat navigates in the darkness, an ultrasound uses sound waves to map internal organs beneath the skin’s surface. Studies to date show that if used appropriately there is no apparent harm caused to body tissues from these sound waves. There is no radiation involved.
The ultrasound machine converts the sound waves into images, which can be viewed on a screen. Less dense areas, like fluid, show up as black while progressively denser areas show up as lighter and lighter grey. The whitest image on an ultrasound is bone.
Ultrasound can be seen as single photographic-style image or as a series of images which when shown together demonstrate real-time movement like a movie. Doppler flow ultrasound identifies the direction of blood flow and 3-D ultrasound uses images in multiple planes to construct a 3-D rendering of internal organs or a fetus.
The American Institute for Ultrasound Medicine (AIUM) is an organization, which sets standards for ultrasound, and practices that are accredited by this organization have passed a rigorous evaluation program and are of the highest quality. Most practices are not AIUM certified. Our ultrasound department has been accredited by this organization since 2006 and all of our ultrasonographers are ARDMS certified specifically in ob-gyn ultrasound. They are also accredited to perform Nuchal translucency testing a critical element in first trimester testing for fetal chromosomal problems.
Obstetric ultrasound has numerous applications:
- To date a pregnancy
- To find a silent miscarriage
- To detect an ectopic pregnancy
- First trimester screening for chromosomal abnormalities
- Anatomy scan at 20 weeks to detect some birth defects
- Fetal cardiac evaluation
- Evaluation of the placenta
- Evaluation of fetal position and growth
- Amount of amniotic fluid
- Number of fetuses
- Testing of fetal well-being: biophysical profile
- Evaluation of the cervix in instances of pre-term labor
- Used to evaluate the pelvis, uterus, ovaries and tubes
- Identify pelvic masses: fibroids, ovarian cysts
- Identify causes of abnormal bleeding
- Identify causes of pelvic pain
- Check correct placement of an IUD
- Identify abnormal masses in the uterus, abnormal ovaries