ultrasound ul·tra·sound (ŭl'trə-sound')
The use of ultrasonic waves for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, specifically to visualize an internal body structure, monitor a developing fetus, or generate localized deep heat to the tissues.
|ultrasound (ŭl'trə-sound') Pronunciation Key
ultrasonic adjective (ŭl'trə-sŏn'ĭk)
Our Living Language : Many people use simple ultrasound generators. Dog whistles, for example, produce tones that dogs can hear but that are too high to be heard by humans. Sound whose frequency is higher than the upper end of the normal range of human hearing (higher than about 20,000 hertz) is called ultrasound. (Sound at frequencies too low to be audible—about 20 hertz or lower—is called infrasound.) Medical ultrasound images, such as those of a fetus in the womb, are made by directing ultrasonic waves into the body, where they bounce off internal organs and other objects and are reflected back to a detector. Ultrasound imaging, also known as ultrasonography, is particularly useful in conditions such as pregnancy, when x-rays can be harmful. Because ultrasonic waves have very short wavelengths, they interact with very small objects and thus provide images with high resolution. For this reason ultrasound is also used in some microscopes. Ultrasound can also be used to focus large amounts of energy into very small spaces by aiming multiple ultrasonic beams in such a way that the waves are in phase at one precise location, making it possible, for example, to break up kidney stones without surgical incision and without disturbing surrounding tissue. Ultrasound's industrial uses include measuring thicknesses of materials, testing for structural defects, welding, and aquatic sonar.
A method of diagnosing illness and viewing internal body structures in which sound waves of high frequency are bounced off internal organs and tissues from outside the body. The technique measures different amounts of resistance the body parts offer to the sound waves, and then uses the data to produce a “picture” of the structures. Ultrasound is often used to obtain an image of the developing fetus in pregnant women; the image can confirm the presence of twins or triplets and can be used to diagnose some abnormalities.
Note: When an image of the inside of the body is needed, ultrasound is often considered a safer alternative to x-rays. Like x-rays, ultrasound involves exposure of the body to a form of radiation; unlike x-rays, ultrasound has not been shown to be carcinogenic.