Medical ultrasound (also known as diagnostic sonography or ultrasonography) is a diagnostic imaging technique based on the application of ultrasound. It is used to create an image of internal body structures such as tendons, muscles, joints, blood vessels, and internal organs. Its aim is often to find a source of a disease or to exclude pathology. The practice of examining pregnant women using ultrasound is called obstetric ultrasound, and was an early development and application of clinical ultrasonography.
Ultrasound refers to sound waves with frequencies which are higher than those audible to humans (>20,000 Hz). Ultrasonic images, also known as sonograms, are made by sending pulses of ultrasound into tissue using a probe. The ultrasound pulses echo off tissues with different reflection properties and are recorded and displayed as an image.
Many different types of images can be formed. The commonest is a B-mode image (Brightness), which displays the acoustic impedance of a two-dimensional cross-section of tissue. Other types can display blood flow, motion of tissue over time, the location of blood, the presence of specific molecules, the stiffness of tissue, or the anatomy of a three-dimensional region.
Compared to other dominant methods of medical imaging, ultrasound has several advantages. It provides images in real-time and is portable and can be brought to the bedside. It is substantially lower in cost than other imaging modalities and does not use harmful ionizing radiation. Drawbacks include various limits on its field of view, such as the need for patient cooperation, dependence on physique, difficulty imaging structures behind bone and air, and the necessity of skilled operators at Queensland Radiology Specialists.