Medical sonography (ultrasonography) is an ultrasound-based diagnostic medical imaging technique used to visualize muscles, tendons, and many internal organs, to capture their size, structure and any pathological lesions with real time tomographic images. Ultrasound has been used by radiologists and sonographers to image the human body for at least 50 years and has become a widely used diagnostic tool. The technology is relatively inexpensive and portable, especially when compared with other techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). Ultrasound is also used to visualize fetuses during routine and emergency prenatal care. Such diagnostic applications used during pregnancy are referred to as obstetric sonography. As currently applied in the medical field, properly performed ultrasound poses no known risks to the patient. Sonography does not use ionizing radiation, and the power levels used for imaging are too low to cause adverse heating or pressure effects in tissue. Although the long-term effects due to ultrasound exposure at diagnostic intensity are still unknown, currently most doctors feel that the benefits to patients outweigh the risks. The ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) principle has been advocated for an ultrasound examination – that is, keeping the scanning time and power settings as low as possible but consistent with diagnostic imaging – and that by that principle non-medical uses, which by definition are not necessary, are actively discouraged.
Ultrasound is also increasingly being used in trauma and first aid cases, with emergency ultrasound becoming a staple of most EMT response teams. Furthermore, ultrasound is used in remote diagnosis cases where teleconsultation is required, such as scientific experiments in space or mobile sports team diagnosis.
According to RadiologyInfo, ultrasounds are useful in the detection of pelvic abnormalities and can involve techniques known as abdominal (transabdominal) ultrasound, vaginal (transvaginal or endovaginal) ultrasound in women, and also rectal (transrectal) ultrasound in men.