The term sonography refers to any method that involves capturing images of the human body for diagnostic purposes using sound waves from a unique device. Doctors and physicians worldwide can make more accurate evaluations of a patient’s condition thanks to the result obtained from sonography- known as a sonogram.
But what a doctor can do with sonography is highly limited without the help of a sonographer, which leads to the question - who exactly is a sonographer, and what do they do?
We take an in-depth look at both of these questions and more below.
What is Sonography?
Sonography as a method of capturing images of the human body for diagnostic purposes is a comprehensive definition. This is thanks to the extensive nature of the human body.
For this reason, there are quite a few different specialties in sonography, with some of these specialties having their subcategories.
Generally, however, all forms of sonography involve using ultrasound to diagnose conditions inside the body non-invasively.
Thanks to their high level of mobility, sonography machines can be transported around a hospital to ensure that they get to the patients who need them instead of the other way around.
Sonogram, Sonography, and Ultrasound
Sonography uses ultrasound waves to achieve non-invasive imaging and analysis of what’s happening inside the body. Thanks to the interconnectedness of both terms, “sonogram” and “ultrasound” are often used in place of one another, which isn’t always the right thing to do.
Even though they are closely related, a few distinctions exist between a sonogram and an ultrasound. Most importantly, while an ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to create an image of the body’s internal parts, a sonogram is the result of this process.
The best way to understand the difference is to think of an ultrasound as the vital instrument of the process, a sonogram as the result of the process, and sonography as the process that uses a combination of both - that is, the act of using ultrasound to acquire a sonogram for non-invasive diagnostic purposes.
Four Most Popular Specialties in Sonography
Now that we understand what sonography is, it is easier to understand the functions of a sonographer, which are to operate the ultrasound machine, prep the patient for imaging, and relay to the doctor any relevant details in the patient’s medical history.
Also, thanks to the extensive nature of the human body, sonographers usually have their specialty areas. Below are four of the most popular ones.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
A diagnostic medical sonographer possesses a general understanding of sonography in its entirety. This includes an in-depth knowledge of medical terminologies and human anatomy.
Although they possess an exhaustive knowledge of the field, diagnostic medical sonographers may choose to specialize further in any of the fields below.
OB/GYN - Obstetrics and Gynecologists
An OB/GYN sonographer specializes in taking images of the female reproductive system and the fetus during pregnancy. OB/GYN sonography is one of the most popular areas of specialization.
They must ensure that the mother and fetus are healthy while evaluating factors such as development and growth conditions to ascertain the absence of complications or abnormalities.
Breast sonographers take ultrasounds of the breast, lymph nodes, and surrounding tissues. This examination is usually required when a patient receives an abnormal mammogram result.
Breast sonography aims to detect irregularities such as cysts, tumors, or lumps. Unlike seeing cancer on its own, abnormalities during an ultrasound will appear as dark spots, which can then be biopsied.
Sonography can also be done on the abdomen to detect abnormalities like kidney stones, tissue damage, gallbladder stones, weak spots, and tumors.
An abdominal sonographer must have an in-depth knowledge of the abdomen and its organs.
A fetal echocardiographer works with an OB/GYN sonographer to examine a fetus’ heart. As with most sonograms, the goal is to have a clear image of the pathology, physiology, and hemodynamics to determine whether or not there are irregularities.
A pediatric sonographer specializes in performing ultrasound examinations for pediatric patients. The area of the body they deal with can range from the chest, spine, and joints to the genitourinary systems.
Neurosonology is a highly specialized area of sonography. A neuro sonographer uses a transcranial Doppler ultrasound to monitor and measure blood flow to the brain.
The ultrasound in question is usually configured with special beams and frequencies.
Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer
Diagnostic cardiac sonographers take 2D and 3D images of the heart to detect problems with the organ. They are also known as echocardiographers.
It is common for an echocardiographer to work closely with a cardiologist to arrive at a diagnosis. To do this, they examine images of the individual chambers of the heart and the heart structure for signs of muscle deterioration, blockage, and blood flow.
Diagnostic medical sonographers often work in medical settings with cardiac specialists. These include hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices.
They can also specialize further as adult, pediatric, or fetal echocardiographers.
Musculoskeletal sonographers perform sonography on the muscles and skeletal systems. These include nerves, joints, ligaments, and tendons all over the body.
The sonogram obtained by a musculoskeletal sonographer can detect sprains, hernias, soft tissue damage, cysts, arthritis, and most conditions that affect mobility.
Most musculoskeletal sonographers work in hospital emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. A significant number also find employment in medical facilities specializing in traumatic injuries.
Vascular sonography is another highly specialized area of sonography. It involves working closely with surgeons and cardiologists to detect and diagnose a wide range of diseases and disorders of the vascular system.
Vascular sonographers are also known as vascular technologists.
More specifically, a vascular technologist examines the veins and arteries, looking for signs of clots or blockage. As with all sonographers, they may also review a patient’s medical history, compile a preliminary report, and perform scans.