Posts tagged ‘transducer’

April 16, 2015

All About the Belly: Abdominal Ultrasound

uplifting buddha by faria! via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)Bellies are where we keep things, from laughter to turkey dinners to babies. But bellies hold more than that! The anatomically correct name for that part of the body is the abdomen. The abdomen is home to important organs including the liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, and towards the back, the kidneys.

So when we as radiologists are asked to look into someone’s belly, we have a lot to check out! Pain in the abdomen can arise from issues with any of the  organs, the blood vessels and ducts or even the supporting tissues. Because there is so much to see, we select our tools very carefully – starting with ultrasound technology.

Ultrasound is great because images are made with harmless sound waves instead of radiation. It is fast, noninvasive, and painless. The most uncomfortable one might feel is when the tender area is evaluated in the scan. In short, it’s an easy exam.

Once the gel is applied, a transducer (fancy name for a probe) is rubbed gently across the skin. A computer calculates black, white and grey images in real time, instantly showing on a screen. Your radiologist can then interpret those images and determine what’s healthy, or what needs to be healed.

When you have a focal symptom, such as a pain, we can look specifically at the area in question, even viewing it with you in different positions (as in, it hurts right here when I do this!). Flank pain (“renal colic”), especially in young patients, those who are pregnant, and those with known kidney stones are excellent candidates for abdominal ultrasound. Right upper quadrant pain or pain after eating fatty foods can be due to gallstones – best seen and evaluated by ultrasound. Right lower quadrant pain can be an indicator of appendicitis and in kids and young adults ultrasound is a great first imaging test.

No matter what the diagnosis, it’s important to take care of your belly – and all that it holds! Ultrasound is a powerful tool in helping us help you.

(Image Credit: uplifting buddha by faria! via Flickr Copyright Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

March 20, 2014

Ultrasound and Pregnancy: The First Trimester

Normal 12 week fetus on first trimester ultrasound. Hi Mom!

Normal 12 week fetus on first trimester ultrasound. Hi Mom!

When most people hear the term “ultrasound” one particular thought comes to mind: pregnancy. Every expectant parent loves a glimpse of who’s-to-come – and finding out which color to paint the nursery is a bonus for many!

However, ultrasound is far more powerful than simply providing in utero baby snapshots. Ultrasound has revolutionized the approach to pregnancy, giving information which can save lives – the baby’s or the mother’s or sometimes both. Ultrasound uses sound waves – not radiation – to produce images, so in trained hands it is safe to use at any time during pregnancy.

During the first trimester, ultrasound is used most frequently to confirm pregnancy (along with a blood test), to confirm the location of the pregnancy and to evaluate bleeding. In the first trimester, the ultrasound will likely involve images obtained through a distended bladder and a transvaginal exam.

Here’s what to expect:

First, you will be asked to come to the exam with a full bladder – we actually use the full bladder as a “window” through which we can view the pregnancy.

The first part of the exam with the bladder full will be done using a transducer across your belly to get a view of the uterus and your pelvis. This is most helpful in demonstrating the pregnancy location. Once these images are obtained, you will be able to empty your bladder and return for what is called a transvaginal ultrasound. This involves a small probe being placed into the vagina to image the pregnancy and pelvic structures. This transducer allows better depiction of the pelvic structures and will allow more detailed evaluation – this is used in the first trimester and occasionally later in pregnancy. In the first trimester when the pregnancy is so small, the transvaginal part of the study is often key. There is usually little or no discomfort with the transvaginal study.

The whole process will take about half an hour.

What can we see in the first trimester?

It depends on the age of the pregnancy. When first visualized, the pregnancy will be a small fluid filled sac. At around 6.5  weeks, the embryo is often seen as a small peanut shaped structure – heart beating away. By the end of the first trimester, you can distinguish the head, trunk and the limbs. Everything is small, so in general gender will not be determined. We will evaluate the age of the pregnancy and compare to what you should be; confirm that the pregnancy is in the uterus; count babies – twins anyone? – look for the heartbeat, which we can only see once the embryo is big enough (7 mm is the key embryo size to expect to see a heartbeat!); and look at the pelvic structures. Fetal anatomic detail is limited by the small size, but it is amazing what you can see!

We know having babies is stressful – and not always easy! We wish you all the best, and hope this helps explain the process of the first trimester obstetric ultrasound.