Dolphins are known as “biosonar” animals. They, along with whales, bats, shrews, and certain birds are able to send ultrasonic sound waves (known as “pings”) into their environment. These sound waves, with a frequency higher than what humans are capable of hearing, bounce off objects and return to them, helping these animals visualize their surroundings. Their brains are capable of determining the actual shape of the things they detect, which allows them to navigate or hunt for prey.
This is the same principle behind medical ultrasound imaging. In fact, the technologists who perform ultrasound imaging are known as sonographers.
Ultrasound was first used in medicine during the Second World War. Austrian physician Karl Theodore Dussik first used sound waves in 1942 to image the brain in an attempt to detect brain tumors. He provided the first published work on medical ultrasonics. Over the next several decades, ultrasound technology was continually refined and improved. In 1958, Dr. Ian Donald incorporated ultrasound into the OB/GYN field of medicine. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, ultrasound was first used to measure the sound waves that are reflected from moving objects, such as blood through the human body. This became known as the “Doppler effect” and is widely used today in vascular ultrasound imaging.
In the 1980s, 3D ultrasound was invented, followed by 4D ultrasound in the 1990s. These innovations used sophisticated computers to reconstruct ultrasound images into a clear picture (3D) or a video (4D), and gave expecting parents a first clear look at their unborn child.
Today, ultrasound is the second-most-used diagnostic imaging technology. Because it emits no ionizing radiation it is very safe, which is why it is so often used in children and pregnant women. It is used to evaluate every organ system in the human body, giving doctors the ability to achieve an accurate diagnosis. And it is used during surgery and interventional procedures to precisely guide treatment in real time.
Ultrasound imaging is available at select ExpertMRI locations.