By now, everyone has heard of ultrasound, especially pregnant women. With the advent of ultrasound’s medical application in the late ’60 and early ‘70s, doctors were able to visualize the fetus in the uterus for the first time. Ultrasound opened up a whole new world for a look inside the body without surgery; the gallbladder, liver, kidneys, spleen, bladder and scrotum. Ultrasound does not penetrate bone well.
Sometimes the exam is called an echogram. Years ago, in order to detect objects close by, a submerged submarine sent out sound waves, so high pitched that the human ear cannot hear them. Those sound waves bounced off objects and returned echoes. Ultrasound works in a similar fashion. Thus the name echogram.
Ultrasound is yet another way for doctors to “image muscle, soft tissue and bone surfaces very well and is particularly useful for delineating the interfaces between solid and fluid-filled spaces.”
It renders “live” images of selected parts of the body which the operator can see, often leading to a rapid, diagnosis.
The equipment is widely available and comparatively flexible. Some scanners are small and portable allowing for bedside examination, and is relatively inexpensive.
In fact, for the first time in history, an ultrasound device may take the place of the doctor’s most recognizable tool, the stethoscope.
Another ultrasound exam your doctor may order is called Doppler ultrasound. It is a method of measuring blood flow and is frequently used in the examination of the heart and heart values. It is often ordered by your cardiologist.
Two good things: Ultrasound is generally considered safe. Every year new and hopefully better equipment is demonstrated to radiologists at the annual meeting of the Radiology Society of North America.
I wonder why someone hasn’t come up with a better way to diagnose breast cancer. Maybe its because mammography is BIG business. The national average for a mammogram including doctor’s interpretation is $105. If you think that is too cynical, think about the thousands of x-rays, needle biopsies and ultrasound follow-ups. After all, we can diagnose prostate cancer with a blood test. I know we are trying. We have the brains and the resources. Let’s get it done.
We lost our little Dudley the day before Thanksgiving. We loved him a lot and he will always be in our hearts.