Sonographers monitor pregnancy, help diagnose health issues and track illnesses.
What is sonography?
Diagnostic medical sonography is the art and science of taking sonograms. Sonographers prepare and take sonographic images, confirm the image quality, and present their findings to the patient’s physician who makes the diagnosis. They can make their diagnoses because sonographic images enable physicians to see soft tissues inside many areas of the body.
Diagnostic medical sonography can provide imaging of blood vessels, organs, tumors, fetuses and other tissues inside the body. Instead of exploratory surgery, which includes risks of infection and an incision, diagnostic medical sonography involves no risk. The images a diagnostic medical sonographer provides enable physicians to diagnose disease, track pregnancies, and monitor illnesses. Sonography represents an important tool for diagnosing physicians in their patient care.
Although sonography often falls under the category of “radiology,” like x-rays, the two differ. X-rays also allow healthcare providers to look inside the body but sonography uses sound waves that go through the skin and bounce off soft tissues to create an image. Diagnostic medical sonography involves no radiation, which is why it’s safe to use during pregnancy and for patients who need imaging frequently.
How does sonography work?
The sonographer applies gel to the patient’s skin. This helps the handheld probe glide over the skin and ensures the probe won’t bounce off. That would allow waves from going into the body. In some cases, probes may be inserted in the body via the gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels or vagina, depending upon the health issue involved.
The probe makes sound waves above 20KHHz, higher than people can hear. As the soft tissue reflects the sound waves back to the probe, it creates a two-dimensional image depicting what is underneath the skin. The images may be viewed on a monitor, printed or saved as a digital file.
How do sonographers work?
Typically, diagnostic medical sonographers work standard 40-hour weeks. Depending upon where they work and what specialty they pursue, diagnostic medical sonographers may need to work some evening hours or on weekends. Some also work on an “on-call” basis during certain days so they can respond to emergencies.
Diagnostic medical sonographers may work in dimly lit exam rooms, where they can more readily see the images they create, or they may capture images in a patient’s room and interpret them in their offices.
How can people become diagnostic medical sonographers?
People seeking diagnostic medical sonography as a career must complete an education in the field from a diagnostic medical sonography school and pass an ARRT exam. Strong communication skills, math and science grades and aptitude for helping others are also helpful in diagnostic medical sonography.