Use of Ultrasound in Medical Science

Ultrasound or ultrasonography is a cyclic sound wave (sound pressure) with frequency higher than human upper hearing limit. Normally human hearing range is 20 to 20,000 hertz (frequency per second). Sound is audible to human ear if the sound wave frequency is 20 to 20,000 per second. Sound wave frequency of more than 20,000 per second is not audible to human ear and known as ultrasound, which are created by using ultrasound machines. Ultrasound Machines can produce sound wave frequencies ranging from 20 kHz (kilohertz) to several gigahertz.

Use of ultrasound in medical science for diagnosis of various medical disorders such as detection of tumor or mass inside human body has revolutionized the diagnostic mechanism. These days it is unimaginable to think about a hospital setup without ultrasound machines. Doctors operating ultrasound machines are known as sonologists (radiologists also use ultrasound machines for diagnostic purpose).

There are various other non-medical uses of ultrasound, such as use of sonar in submarines to detect objects and find out the distance. Ultrasound is also used as ultrasound cleaning (for lenses, jewellery, optical parts, watches, dental and surgical instruments), ultrasound welding, ultrasound disintegration (cells and bacteria can be disintegrated), to study chemical structures etc. For these purposes commonly 20 to 40 kHz  frequency waves are used.

Medical uses of ultrasound:

Most common use of ultrasound is in medical science for diagnostic purpose. Ultrasound diagnosis is a type of non invasive technique and preferred as it does not have serious side effects unlike many invasive and non invasive procedures (such as CT scan, which exposes the patient to harmful X-rays).

Ultrasound is preferred diagnostic tool for diagnosis various medical conditions such as stones (in gall bladder and kidneys), various abdominal conditions, to find out condition of fetus in pregnant women, detect any abnormality in the fetus and in many more medical disorders.

Ultrasound is also used for therapeutic purpose (for treatment of medical conditions), for example use of ultrasound wave to break kidney stones, known as lithotripsy. In this procedure ultrasound waves of various frequencies are directed towards the kidney stone(s) to break it into smaller pieces, which becomes easier to remove via urine.

How safe is medical use of ultrasound?

Ultrasound is safe procedure for the patient if used with caution. No untoward incidence occurs during diagnosis procedure. However, occupational exposure to excess ultrasound (in excess of 120 decibel) can cause hearing loss/disturbance. Exposure to ultrasound above 155 dB (decibel) may produce enough heat to harm human body. There are reports of deaths if exposed to more than 180 dB.

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