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What is ultrasound?

Ultrasound is a diagnostic imaging technique that is used to view organs and structures within the body. It uses high-frequency sound waves to create photos or videos of internal organs and tissues, unlike other imaging scans like x-rays that use radiation.

During an ultrasound exam, a hand-held scanning probe known as a transducer emits a beam of sound waves that bounce off the organs or structures inside the body and reflects back to the probe. The probe then converts these signals into an image that is displayed on a monitor.

What are the different types of ultrasounds?

There are three main ultrasound categories:

  • Diagnostic ultrasounds are used to identify parts of the internal body that are not functioning properly and aid in diagnosis. Using diagnostic ultrasound imaging can help a healthcare provider identify the cause of abnormal symptoms.
  • Pregnancy ultrasounds are used to monitor a fetus throughout pregnancy. Prenatal ultrasounds can be used to confirm pregnancy, check the number of fetuses, estimate gestational age of the fetus, check fetal growth and position, and check for congenital conditions.
  • Procedure-guidance ultrasounds, also known as interventional ultrasounds, help providers to perform procedures more precisely. For example, an ultrasound may be used to guide needle placement when sampling tissue or fluid from within the body.

Why is ultrasound important in healthcare?

An ultrasound provides a non-invasive imaging option that produces an accurate and reliable visualization of internal organs and structures. Its real-time imaging capability also allows providers to observe movement and function, such as blood flow through a blood vessel.

Ultrasounds are some of the most common types of medical imaging procedures.

Ultrasound scans play an important role in assisting physicians in determining the cause of diseases, guiding treatment, and monitoring certain conditions.