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

Uses

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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Portable Ultrasound

portable ultrasound machineMany people know about and have experienced the normally fairly large, console style ultrasound machines that are generally used by ultrasound technicians for uses such as 3d ultrasound scans. While these machines had great potential for many uses, their bulky nature and weight limited them to specific circumstances in controlled conditions such as hospitals.

Portable ultrasound machines alleviated a lot of these issues and while they do have their own innate drawbacks have opened up a lot of new treatment opportunities. The first ultrasound machines that were portable were developed as early as the 1980’s however they only became truly portable and battery powered towards the end of the 1990’s.

This opened up an amazing array of avenues for them to be used in specialist situations where:

  • There is limited space
  • Ease of mobility is a necessary requirement
  • Scanning must be done in the field.

Portable ultrasound machines are even still regularly used in hospitals alongside the normal larger machines. They are routinely used in emergency rooms to aid in first point of contact diagnosis where speed, efficiency and accuracy are vital to treat the incoming patients. This is all part of the FAST scan or Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma which is a screening test to check for free fluid in a patient’s body that can result from trauma, such as blood around the heart. There is also an eFAST or extended FAST exam which also allows for the examination of both lungs in similar circumstances.

The advantages of this are that unlike similar methods to check for this fluid the FAST scan is a not invasive and doesn’t expose the patient to any radiation. Due to the fact that this is a rapid bedside ultrasound examination it also speeds up the potential diagnosis in the emergency rooms and can cut down on potential bottlenecks.

Unusual Environments

The mobile ultrasound machines have also been put to use in rugged environments far removed from any hospital. The military has been using these machines for several years now, but since 2007 even Special Forces units have been increasing the amount of them that they make available in the field. While the military has access to x-ray and ultrasound systems for a while, an x-ray machine takes up one third of a Chinook helicopter to transport to a fire base where the ultrasound machines can fit into a standard-size medical aid bag and weigh just a few pounds.

Manufacturers are not in the dark with regards to this new potential for their devices and have now made several models designed for these rugged environments where it can be subject to strong impacts and shocks.

Future Advances

The machines mentioned above are all self-contained ultrasound machines that can be used individually with no connection or reliance on other services. There have been other developments however that rely on 3G and 4G networks in order to process the ultrasound. In these situations they used a device the size of a cell phone to emit the ultrasonic waves; however the collected data is then transmitted over the 3G connection to a central processing centre. This not only cuts down on the size of the portable device that needs to be carried, but it also cuts down the cost of the necessary equipment and allows the ultrasound technician to focus simply on scanning efficiently while knowing that the image analysis is still being expertly monitored.

While ultrasound is already a hugely useful invention, with innovations in mobilizing the technology while also making the equipment cheaper, it shows a bright future for the industry as a whole where more people can gain access to the technology in ever more remote places.

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Ultrasound Treatment for Osteoporosis Discovered

Ultrasound Research

Dr. Yi-Xian Qin, and Department of Biomedical Engineering graduate student, Jordan Rustad, look at evidence of changes in bone-forming cells as a result of exposure to ultrasound.

At Stony Brook University in New York research is being led by Yi-Xian Qin, PhD and Professor into a potentially revolutionary new treatment for osteoporosis, fractures and other related issues that involve bone loss. Currently the only treatments for these issues either involve waiting for the patient’s body to heal naturally, or using pharmacological drug treatments to help ease the problem. This could all change now that they have evidence suggesting that medium-density focused ultrasound can have beneficial effects in this area, potentially being one of the biggest developments in the area since 3D ultrasound.

The technique revolves around focusing these ultrasonic waves on osteoblasts, these are more commonly known as bone-forming cells. When these osteoblasts are stimulated with ultrasound they consistently experience increase mobility and triggers the release of calcium which in turn promotes growth.

Stony Brook University states that musculoskeletal tissues, like bone and muscle, respond to significant stimuli such as exercise. This is to maintain the tissues natural state of dynamic equilibrium in response to mechanical loading. Realizing this opportunity the researchers decided to test how osteoblasts would respond to other mechanical signals such as ultrasound. The research team developed a new innovative method to apply the ultrasound which they call acoustic radiation force (ARF); they expose the osteoblasts to one minute of this radiation and then try to observe any reaction. What they repeatedly found was that through the use of the ARF focused ultrasound beam they had induced cellular cytoskeletal rearrangement, the motility and mobility of the cells, and accelerated intracellular calcium transportations and concentrations.

This is an exciting development in the field due to the comparative nature of the treatment; the opportunity to develop a none invasive and drug free ultrasonic procedure which has the potential to cause little to no side effects has obvious advantages, as this is something that even the mildest drug can sometimes have problems with.

Dr. Qin is also involved with other research projects, previous findings of his has led to the creation of an ultrasound machine designed to specifically scan bones and is far more advanced than the current ultrasound technology in the area as it assesses bone parameters beyond simple mineral density. This machine was initially invented to act as a diagnostic tool to help predict early bone loss, with the discovery of the effects of ARF, they are now looking to combine the two technologies in order to build a device that can first predict and identify bone loss or fractures, and then provide ARF treatment to the affected area in order to promote growth and healing.

The more that scientists study ultrasound the more benefits and uses for it are being discovered. It still amazes me personally that simple sound waves can have such an effect on us as people, especially when it is normally thought of as a method of seeing, not healing. It is studies such as this that go to show what a bright future ultrasound has in our world and the exciting times that people who enter the industry will experience.

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Source: Stony Brook University

Medical Uses for Ultrasound

cardiology ultrasound machine Ultrasound technicians are involved in many different areas of medicine. While the most commonly thought of use for sonography is that of obstetrics and pregnancy, ultrasound especially 3D and 4D ultrasound has many different uses.

If you’re new to this website we explain what ultrasound is and some background to the area in our article diagnostic medical sonography, this article will assume a basic knowledge of what ultrasound is and instead focus on providing an overview of these uses and procedures.

What is ultrasound used for?

Anesthesiology

One of the rarely thought of but commonly used uses is during anesthesia. At this time ultrasound is routinely used in order to guide the injecting needle when it is necessary to place a local anesthetic in close proximity to nerves.

echocardiogramCardiology

The use of ultrasonography during cardiology is called echocardiography. This is regularly used to view the heart in order to diagnose abnormalities. Echocardiography can determine many heart issues from investigating if the heart is formed and functioning properly, checking for dilation in any part of the heart and can even assess blood velocity when using Doppler ultrasound.

Emergency Medicine

Ultrasound is routinely used to aid diagnoses at the first point of care. In situations such as these where speed, accuracy and efficiency save lives, ultrasound is used in many situations including the Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma (FAST) exam. As the name implies this is a rapid examination that can be done at a bedside. The aim to screen for internal bleeding such as around the heart (pericardial tamponade) or other abdominal organs (hemoperitoneum) which can result after a patient has suffered trauma.

portable ultrasound scannerThere is also an extended FAST or eFAST exam which utilizes sonography in the examination of both lungs. This bedside detection procedure has many advantages, most significant of which is that while other scanning procedures can often detect these issues, the swift and accurate ultrasound scans enable the quick response that is needed in these situations, especially when waiting to perform the lengthier scans can enable other serious complications to develop when not caught immediately.

Ultrasonography is also regularly used in the emergency department to hasten the treatment of patients who suffer from upper right quadrant abdominal pain which may result from cholecystitis or gallstones.

Gastroenterology

During this abdominal ultrasonography the organs in the abdomen are imaged e.g. Spleen, aorta, inferior vena cava, pancreas, gall bladder, bile ducts and kidneys. The appendix can sometimes be added to this list, but only when inflamed by such issues as appendicitis. Ultrasound technicians have a complicated job in this area; sound waves are often attenuated by fat or even blocked completely by gas contained within the bowel. Due to this the diagnostic capabilities for gastroenterology have a limited impact.

Neonatology

The skull generally provides a virtually impenetrable barrier for ultrasound, however with an infant the soft area of the skull (Fontanelle) does allow for ultrasonic waves to penetrate for a short while, until these close at around 1 year old. This allows for the analysis of intracerebral structural abnormalities, bleeds, ventriculomegaly or hydrocephalus and anoxic insults.

Urology

This has many uses, one of which is to discover the amount of fluid a patient retains in their bladder. Pelvic sonograms also cover the uterus and ovaries, or prostate and testicles for males. Ultrasound scans in this area can either be done externally or internally, transvaginally for females or transrectally for males. Scans in this area are used for different purposes but can be used to distinguish between benign testicular masses and testicular cancer.

Musculoskeletal

This is the use of sonography to look at tendons, muscles, ligaments, bone surfaces, nerves, and soft tissue masses.

This is just a selection of some of the areas that an ultrasound technician gets involved in. With technological innovations such as 3D and 4D ultrasound alongside improvements in the brightness and clarity of the images themselves, new uses and procedures are still being thought of. This is why ultrasound technicians need to undergo regular training in order to make sure they are up to date with the latest advancements and techniques.

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