5 Surprising Uses Of Ultrasound Technology In The Medical Field

Posted on: 5 March 2015

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Ultrasound is a non-invasive diagnostic test that uses sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body. During the test, sound waves reflect off the organs and other tissues in the body, producing images that help diagnose or monitor a wide range of diseases and disorders. Surprisingly, ultrasound also has several applications in the emergency room and the operating room. Here are five ways doctors use ultrasound to perform diagnostic and surgical procedures.

1. Achilles Tendon Repair

Surgeons use ultrasound to perform minimally invasive procedures on people with ruptured Achilles tendons. During this type of surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision and uses ultrasound technology to guide the placement of a special suturing device. This device pulls the ends of the tendon together, reducing the risk of future ruptures. In a study of 23 patients, those who had ultrasound-guided procedures had less pain and lower rates of infection than the people who had conventional surgery.

2. Ultrasound-Guided Biopsies

Health professionals from places like EVDI Medical Imaging use ultrasound to guide the placement of needles during biopsies on the breasts, prostate, and other parts of the body. This method is helpful for taking samples of lumps that cannot be seen or felt by the doctor. During an ultrasound-guided biopsy, the doctor inserts a needle into the biopsy site and advances the needle directly into the lump, using ultrasound images to determine the best way to position the needle. The benefits of ultrasound-guided biopsy include improved patient comfort and reduced cost.

3. Peripheral Nerve Stimulator Implantation

Peripheral nerve stimulation is used to control pain in people who have nerve injuries, complex regional pain syndrome, postherpetic neuralgia, and other disorders affecting the peripheral nerves. A peripheral nerve stimulator delivers a weak electrical current to the affected nerve, producing a pleasant sensation for the patient. The stimulation tricks the brain into reducing or shutting off the pain signals, easing discomfort and improving quality of life. In some cases, surgeons use ultrasound to implant a peripheral nerve stimulator, sparing patients the potential complications of a more complex surgery.

4. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy

Tiny kidney stones usually pass from the body without causing any damage, but large stones can get stuck in the urinary tract, causing intense pain, bleeding, and damage to the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. If a stone is too large to pass through the urinary system on its own, medical intervention is necessary to prevent these complications. A procedure called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy is used to break large kidney stones into smaller pieces that can pass through the urinary system. During this procedure, the doctor uses ultrasound technology to identify the exact location of the stone; then high-energy sound waves pass through the body, breaking the stone into small fragments.

5. Thoracentesis

Thoracentesis is used to remove fluid trapped between the chest wall and the exterior lining of the lungs, a condition called pleural effusion. When a lot of fluid builds up in the pleural space, it becomes difficult to breathe, and some people even experience chest pain and coughing. During a thoracentesis, a doctor inserts a needle into the pleural space and removes the excess fluid. Traditionally, X-rays were used to identify the location of a pleural effusion, but ultrasound has proven more effective for detecting small pleural effusions that are not as obvious on a regular X-ray.

Because ultrasound is non-invasive and does not use any ionizing radiation, it offers a high level of patient comfort. Ultrasound equipment also costs less than CT scanners or MRI machines, making it an affordable way to improve the accuracy of certain procedures. If you are scheduled to have an ultrasound-guided procedure, talk to your doctor about what you should expect.