October is Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month!

Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month is a joint effort of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM), American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE), Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), and the Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU).

WHAT IS ULTRASOUND?

Ultrasound is any sound at a frequency that is above the range of human hearing. Diagnostic medical ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and structures inside the body, and is broken into several subgroups according to the specialized area of the body focused upon by a specific procedure. Ultrasound images of the heart are called echocardiograms, and the procedure is called echocardiography; ultrasound images of most other parts of the body are called sonograms, and the procedure is commonly called sonography. Ultrasound tests looking at blood vessels and blood flow are called noninvasive vascular ultrasound examinations. Unlike many other imaging procedures, ultrasound does not use x rays or other forms of ionizing radiation. An instrument called a transducer is placed against the body, and special gel helps transmit the sound. In most types of diagnostic medical ultrasound examinations, the transducer emits short bursts of sound, which bounce off a structure and return to the transducer. These echoes are processed by a computer, and the images they create are displayed on a monitor.

WHO ARE THE ULTRASOUND PROFESSIONALS INVOLVED IN MY CARE?

Physicians who interpret ultrasound examinations are called sonologists. Although many sonologists perform the tests themselves, they often employ highly skilled professionals called sonographers. These individuals have completed extensive, specialized education in the field of diagnostic medical ultrasound. Sonographers who specialize in cardiac ultrasound are called echocardiographers, and those who specialize in ultrasound of the blood vessels are called vascular technologists.
Although a sonographer may play a critical role in extracting the information necessary to derive a diagnosis, the rendering of a final diagnosis of an ultrasound study is the responsibility of the supervising sonologist.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM RECEIVING HIGH-QUALITY ULTRASOUND SERVICES?

Ask whether your sonographer is certified. Certified sonographers have demonstrated that they have specific training, experience, and  knowledge to perform an ultrasound examination safely and accurately. To maintain their certification, sonographers are required to earn  ontinuing medical education credits each year, which helps ensure that they remain up-to-date in ultrasound technology and patient care. Ask whether the ultrasound practice you are visiting is accredited. Facilities that have obtained accreditation have demonstrated competency in every aspect of their ultrasound operations, including the education and training of physicians and sonographers, calibration and maintenance of the ultrasound equipment, document storage, policies for safeguarding patients, and accuracy in diagnosis.

HOW SHOULD DIAGNOSTIC MEDICAL ULTRASOUND BE — USED?

Diagnostic medical ultrasound should be used in a prudent manner to provide a medical benefit to the patient. Nonmedical use of ultrasound for psychosocial or entertainment purposes is strongly discouraged. The use of ultrasound only to view a fetus, obtain a picture of a fetus, or determine the fetal sex without a medical indication is inappropriate and contrary to responsible medical practice.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT

American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) • 800-638-5352 • 301-498-4100
American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) • 301-738-8401
American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) • 919-861-5574
Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) • 800-326-0268
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) • 800-229-9506 • 214-473-8057
Society for Vascular Ultrasound (SVU) • 301-459-7550