Archives for August 2012

Why choose an ultrasound technician school?

Ultrasound Technician SchoolsLike any skilled profession it takes a lot of time and effort to learn the necessary skills in order to become proficient and qualified. Although sonographers have the opportunity to undergo some shorter courses (around 2 years) compared to some other medical careers, their career is no less skilled or important. So how can these programs teach sonography in these timespans and what are the benefits of learning at an offline or online ultrasound technician school?

What does a sonography school teach?

Well if I really wanted to write a short article, I could simply say it teaches people how to become an ultrasound technician and finish right here. However given that I can imagine a lynch mob with pitchforks charging my door and I quite enjoy the use of my legs I’ll explain further.

For anyone who has been researching into these schools you will have read that the first and most important part of your research is to find out if both the school and training program you are looking at is accredited. Although yes it is possible to become a technician without accreditation, the job prospects are far better for those which are accredited and this is one of the main ways you can easily increase your sonographer salary.

The actual course content that the program provides will vary between institutions however being accredited they will all cover the generalities that are needed in your future day to day work. This is one of the major benefits for this kind of program, although in other subjects education can be quite theoretical with little grounding in real world application it is not so for sonography training programs. Due in part to the time constraints they have cut the course to the essential training that is required to do your job efficiently, accurately and safely in a real world environment. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Human physiology and abnormalities.
  • How to use an ultrasound machine and maintain it
  • Scanning methods and techniques
  • Administration such as how to complete patient reports and medical records
  • Bedside manner and providing quality patient care

This is just a preliminary listing and if you look at any ultrasound technician college prospectus they will provide a far more detailed course structure and information such as in this video.

How can they fit all this sonography training into such a short timeframe?

Although there are short courses available, some for as little as one year, they are not all this length. It is possible to undergo a full degree program which takes 4 years and is another way to increase your earning potential in the future. This course is obviously more detailed and provides a far better overview of the subject than the shorter courses; however there are reasons why you can practice the same career with a shorter training time. The 1-2 year courses often require several prerequisites that can mean you do not start from scratch knowing nothing about medicine or biology. This allows the schools to cut out some of the beginner knowledge that might be included in longer courses.

The main reason is however that they are vocational courses with a period of internship at the end. Technically you could say that this is still included in any training programs length however I would disagree. The internship is a paid job opportunity where you will be essentially working in your chosen career path. The only difference from that and being fully qualified is that you will be watched by an experienced sonographer while practicing. This way of learning can be of great benefit to those who learn better while doing as opposed to sitting in lecture halls listening to theory rather than doing it with their hands. It is also of obvious benefit to those who want to change career path however need to pay the bills and so wish to get paid work as soon as possible.

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Pelvic Ultrasound Information

Pelvic ultrasound can be defined as the use of high-frequency ultrasonic waves to create pictures of the pelvic organs to aid diagnoses. These ultrasonic waves enter the body from an instrument called a transducer; when the waves hit an organ they are reflected by the internal structures and produce echoes which then return to the transducer. This data is then processed by a CPU which determines the distance travelled and creates the ultrasound image or sonogram.

When a patient complains about symptoms related to the pelvic region, the benefits and ease of ultrasound make it a natural choice in diagnoses. It is regularly in conjunction with a physical examination of the region in order to provide a more detailed overview which can be difficult to detect externally.transabdominal ultrasound


There are many reasons why a doctor may recommend a pelvic ultrasound for a patient however the procedure is most commonly used during pregnancy or as one of the steps in order to determine the reason for infertility. During pregnancy the ultrasound can detect a number of important attributes which if left could cause complications. This enables healthcare to be proactive and solve or treat issues with pregnancies before they become too serious. Besides the medical benefits it has been proven that engaging mothers with the ultrasound procedure during pregnancy greatly improves maternal bonding, and as such ultrasound is often looked upon with excitement for mothers some even booking extra ultrasound procedures in order to obtain 3D images of their baby.

Some of the things that ultrasound can detect during initial stages of pregnancy are:

  • Size of the fetus and ascertain estimated due date
  • Discover multiple fetuses
  • Determine if the fetus is alive (viable)
  • Distinguish between intrauterine and ectopic pregnancy

During the later stages of pregnancy ultrasound can also aid with:

  • Measuring fetal growth
  • Ascertain any abnormalities in the anatomy
  • Look at the amniotic fluid and placenta

Applying ultrasound to the pelvis can establish many things about the body; it can determine the size and shape of various organs within the pelvis such as the bladder and can help aid diagnoses with regards to bladder dysfunction. It also has the ability to discover:

  • Inflammation
  • Cysts
  •  Tumors
  •  Free fluid

Although generally ultrasound is taken with the transducer placed on the patient’s abdomen there have been advances in technology within this area that allow more specialized equipment to be used in other places in order to obtain clearer images within the pelvis. The transducer has been altered in order for it to be able to be placed within a women’s vagina in order to provide brighter sonograms, named transvaginal ultrasound it is useful for scans during very early pregnancy. Recent legislation in the US has also made these compulsory in some states in order to obtain a termination. Similarly men can have a probe inserted rectally called transrectal ultrasound which is regularly used to scan the prostate.

What to do before a pelvic ultrasound examination?

To prepare for a pelvic ultrasound the patient is normally required to drink several glasses of water 1-2 hours before their appointment is due and to avoid urinating if at all possible until the sonogram is completed. Toilets are normally located very near to the scanning booth and some discomfort can be experienced during this time.

The reason this is asked is because when the bladder is full it forms a path or “acoustic window” for the ultrasonic waves to pass though, leading to clearer images for the ultrasound technician. Patients are normally instructed if this drinking is necessary, however if unsure it is better to err on the side of caution and drink the water; it is a lot easier to empty your bladder if unnecessary than to sit in the waiting room for an hour drinking water to fill your bladder.

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Ultrasound Developed to Help Fight Cancer

blood vessel ultrasoundCancer affects an astonishing 40% of people according to Macmillan Cancer Support, as such there are few people that have not either been affected by it or had someone close to them affected. Research from the University of North Carolina has developed a new technique shown to aid in early detection of cancer utilizing ultrasonic waves. This adds another string to the bow of ultrasound technicians and will further help grow the industry as a whole in the years to come, which can only be good news for those wishing to provide quality patient care.

Throughout a person’s body their blood vessels snake through them in a manner that from a distance resembles the twists and turns of a river looked at from above. It has been discovered however that this blood vessel tortuosity or “bendiness” can actually be a sign of the presence and progression of cancer in a patient.

What the researcher’s at UNC have developed is a method of high-resolution ultrasound imaging that can map out these inner blood vessels and then ultrasound technicians can detect blood vessel abnormality from the resulting pictures; this technique has been used in order to identify early tumors in preclinical studies. Although still early days for the research this is an exciting proposition due to the non-invasive nature of it, while being potentially accurate enough to detect tumors less than a centimeter in size. Given that early detection of cancer carries such benefits with regards to how beneficial treatment is, this research could potentially save thousands of lives.

Paul Dayton, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering and part of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center further supports this idea by saying, “The correlation between vessel tortuosity and cancer is well-established. What’s new about our finding is that we can visualize these vessels in minutes with a very quick scan, using very inexpensive imaging methods.”

This new high quality ultrasound imaging has been termed “acoustic angiography”; it utilizes an intravascular contrast agent that enables the technicians to create sonograms of only the blood vessels. Unlike the more regularly used 2D ultrasound frequently used in obstetrics to detect fetal growth, this ultrasound manages to filter out any data that represents tissue thus enabling them to view the inner blood vessels clearly.

Dayton goes onto say “Our results showed a definitive difference between vessels within and surrounding tumors versus those associated with normal healthy vasculature. The limitation that we must now address is that our method works only for tumors at a shallow depth into tissue, such as melanomas or thyroid cancer. Our next studies will focus on this imaging-depth issue as well as evaluating the ability of this technology to determine a tumor’s response to therapy.”

“We know from several clinical and preclinical MRI studies at UNC by Elizabeth Bullitt, MD, and others, and at other institutions that vessels can unbend, or “normalize,” in response to effective therapy. We need to see if our inexpensive ultrasound-based method of blood vessel visualization and tortuosity analysis can detect this normalization prior to conventional assessments of tumor response to therapy, such as measurements of tumor size.”

This is clearly a great step forward in the war against cancer, it is rare that such potential detection methods are produced that are not only fast and non-invasive, but also require no exposure to radiation and are therefore safe for everyone.

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