What's in Your #MedTechToolbox: The Ultrasound Machine

HealthcareJanuary 23, 2014

The ultrasound machine was invented by Ian Donald in 1957, and it was first used on a pregnant woman in 1958. A doctor during WWII, Donald believed there was a way to adapt sonar and radar technologies into the medical field. After a successful diagnosis in 1958, he published his findings with T.G. Brown and John MacVicar in the publication The Lancet.

An echocardiogram, also known as a cardiac echo or just echo, is a sonogram of the heart. Med techs that have taken the path of diagnostic sonography or ultrasonography may have learned how to perform an echocardiogram. In most cases, additional schooling is required to become a cardiac sonographer.


Ultrasounds are often used in the medical field to conduct diagnosis and therapeutic procedures. A hand-held transducer is passed over the body, emitting sound waves that pass through the body. The sound waves reflect back to the transducer when it hits an object of a different density. The data is stored in a disk storage device and displayed on a monitor. The information is then reviewed by a doctor, surgeon or other specialist to determine the results.


Echocardiography is routinely used in the diagnosis, management and follow-up of patients with any suspected or known heart diseases. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tests in cardiology. An echocardiogram can tell the size and shape of the heart, pumping capacity and the location, and extent of any tissue damage.

An echocardiogram creates ultrasound pictures of the heart, and it also produces a near perfect assessment of blood flow passing through the heart using different wave Doppler ultrasound signals. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has a full list of possible heart abnormalities that can be found using an echocardiogram.

Although sound waves are used, the frequency is out of the normal hearing range of humans. Some machines, especially those with Doppler capabilities, have added sounds to the monitoring device to help technicians interpret specific patterns during the diagnosis. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ultrasounds have been used for over 20 years, and they have an excellent safety record. Ultrasounds use a non-iodized radiation (X-rays use ionized) which is considered safe, but it is still unknown regarding possible issues occuring from prolonged exposure over time.

Photo Source: Flickr


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