Ultrasound Imaging also known as sonography includes a non-invasive diagnostic tool that aids in evaluating, and treating medical conditions. During an ultrasound examination, a sonographer places an instrument called a transducer on the skin or internally.
It sends high frequency sound waves to create images of various internal organs and structures on the computer. When water-soluble gel is applied to the skin, the ultrasound waves are transmitted from the transducer through the gel and into the body, reflected and returned as echoes producing visual displays of various internal structures (abdomen, breast, cardiac, vascular, fetus etc.) (Center for Devices and Radiological Health, 2015). Sonographers examine many body’s internal organs as well as diagnosing wide range of diseases and medical conditions including abnormal findings of the fetus, and major structural abnormalities using many different types of ultrasound. Echocardiogram is an ultrasound that is useful in examining the heart, measuring the blood flow in the arteries to detect any blockage. Abdominal ultrasound is used to detect many cysts or abnormal growths in the liver, spleen, pancreas and other soft tissue structures in abdomen region (Robinson, 2017).
Even pathology in muscle, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints can be identified using a diagnostic musculoskeletal ultrasound (Draper and Prentice, 2011). Fetal ultrasound is most widely used method to examine and assess the well being of the fetus. It also reveals the gender and the heartbeat of the baby as well as revealing its facial features and body parts throughout pregnancy(Center for Devices and Radiological Health, 2015). Unlike MRI and X-ray imaging, there is no ionizing radiation exposure associated with ultrasound, which makes it generally safe and easy to perform. Research studies have shown that ultrasound imaging introduces energy into the body resulting in potential biological effects on the body caused by possible use of higher intensity ultrasound combined with longer duration of exposure (Center for Devices and Radiological Health, 2015).There are biologic consequences of excessive thermal effects of ultrasound as exposure time is prolonged, can potentially damage tissues.
Heating from the ultrasound beam is dependent on tissues sensitivity, intensity of the machine, exposure time and frequent movement of the transducer. Studies found that if a transducer is held more than 30 seconds near to fetus can results to heating of sensory organs incased in bone (Kresser, 2011). In order to avoid hot spots or temperature rise between the transducer and the patient, it is recommended to move the transducer in constant motion. If pain and discomfort are sensed by the patient often indicates bones or nerve ending are being overheated (Shankar and Pagel, 2011). Therefore, the power and intensity should be reduced.Significant exposure can lead to biological effects independent of thermal effects includingformation of cavitation and acoustic microstreaming due to ultrasonically induced pressure changes in tissue fluids (Draper and Prentice, 2011). Studies suggest both repetitively used high intensity and high frequency has shown to results in unstable cavitation, tissue necrosis, chromosomal damage, genetic mutation, and teratogenic changes (Provet healthcare information, 2013). Furthermore, Ultrasound wave can cause a mechanical shearing force at the cell surface, which may alter cell membrane permeability due to changes in cell membrane structure and functions that stimulates the healing process.
Studies indicate that enzyme activity and gene regulation are affected by absorption of energy that modifies protein’s functional activity. In addition to dissociation of multimolecular complex stressed by mechanical shearing of the wave, disrupting the complex’s function (Draper and Prentice, 201l). Caution should be used when treating areas of decreased sensation, decreased circulation and individual with vascular problems or metal implants.
Ultrasound should not be used over a malignant tumor or epiphyseal areas in young children. (Draper and Prentice, 201l). Although most studies suggests that ultrasound imaging appears to be associated with minimal risk of tissue injury to the patient, acknowledgement of potential adverse effects of ultrasound may allow clinicians to balance optimal visualization and complications.
Therefore in consideration of these possible constraints, it is highly recommended that health care providers consider ways to minimize exposure and limit use of ultrasound for medically indicated. Relevant safety regulations should be practice by clinicians to provide optimum diagnostic quality when using ultrasound (Center for Devices and Radiological Health, 2015). In conclusion, allowing myself to be scanned by other students and vice versa allows me to receive extensive hand-on practice, exposure to medical settings and gain all required skills to become a competent sonographer. To minimize potential adverse health effects, I will take safety precautions with the ultrasound during lab scanning. I understand the implications of biological effects of ultrasound imaging, and I agree to take part in the lab scanning.