Think of ultrasound scans and we immediately think of baby scans. Traditional 2D baby scans showing a static image of your baby are routinely offered on the NHS, with one at 12 weeks and a follow up scan at 20 weeks. However, 3D and 4D baby scans have seen an unprecedented growth in recent years.
You know the ones, where you go to a private clinic and your soon to be new arrival is computerised with a moving image projected onto a screen in front of your eyes. You walk away with your souvenir memory stick or cd (remember those) full of images and videos of your baby, with an increased level of excitement all geared up to the exciting due date.
3D and 4D baby scans are fantastic as they provide greater detail, such as allowing you to see the shape of your babies’ mouth and nose, spot the baby yawning or sticking their tongue out.Likewise, they are used to confirm gender and due dates, but equally they can also help diagnose and provide information about a known abnormality. This can help both parents and doctors to plan for the birth.
However, ultrasound scans usage extends far beyond just baby scans. other such usage is for scans if the liver, kidney’s, bladder, spleen, aorta and pancreas. More and more ultrasound is being used for MSK scans. This also known as musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging and is changing the diagnosis, and treatment of many conditions in different parts of the body.
Ultrasound is a non-invasive scan which uses sound waves to create images of internal organs, vessels and tissues, including muscles, tendons and ligament. The images produced are used to monitor and diagnose conditions in many parts of the body.
Ultrasound gel is placed on the area of concern and the transducer (probe) is placed on to the gel. Sound waves are transmitted from the transducer (probe). The sonar technology used is the same as that used on ships. The images are produced when the sound waves interact with a structure in the body and is reflected back to a scanner. How the image appears on the screen depends upon the structure the sound waves hits, as each structure has a different pattern of reflection.
Sound waves are measured in frequencies, and different scanners produce sound waves of a specific frequency. The type of scanner, and therefore the type of frequency used depends upon the structure which is being imaged. As the majority of structures examined during a musculoskeletal examination are close to the skin surface (superficial) high frequency sound waves are used.
The way the scan is performed depends on the purpose of the examination.
The scanner can be used either externally on the skin, or through the natural openings of the body, such as the vagina. With regards to abdominal and musculoskeletal examinations all scans are carried out with the probe being placed externally onto the skin.
The water-based gel described above is then spread over the skin, enabling the scan to define the structures as clearly as possible.
As the echoes are continuously produced, therefore the image on the screen is being constantly updated, the scan can show real-time movement.
The person operating the ultrasound scanner known as the sonographer can change the position of the probe in order to look at the structure being scanned from many different angles.
Depending on what is being examined the patient will be asked to lie down, sit down, stand up and/or perform a few movements to help detect or eliminate any pathology (disease or injury)
Ultrasound scans provides real time images of tissues, organs and vessels in comparison to other imaging methods such as CT and MRI for example, and is therefore frequently used to help monitor and diagnose many conditions in many parts of the body.
Ultrasound imaging is used to monitor unborn babies, detect heart problems, assess lumps within the body including lumps within the testicles and lumps in the breast. Likewise, it is also used to examine conditions affecting the organs in a woman’s pelvis – the uterus, cervix, vagina, Fallopian tubes and ovaries.
The following is a small sample of the most common conditions and symtpoms we are able to diagnose using ultrasound and is designed to help you in deciding what conditions may require an ultrasound referral.
Tendon tears, tendinitis, tendinopathy
Muscle tears, strains and pulls throughout the body
Ultrasound can also be used to guide medical procedures, such as needle biopsies. This is used when it is necessary to extract sample cells from an abnormal area, so that it can be sent to the laboratory for testing.
Depending on the scan you are having there maybe some preparation required, in terms of fasting for 6 hours, abstaining from smoking for 6 hours or drinking 2 joints of water 1 hour before your scan. For a MSK scan no special preparation is required. Our administration team will go through all of this with you at the point of booking.You should continue with any of your usual medication. Wearing comfortable and loose fitting clothing is also advised.
The scan will be assessed continuously throughout the examination by the radiologist/sonographer conducting the scan who as mentioned above are specifically trained interpret medical images.
They will discuss the results of the scan then and there with you providing immediate verbal feedback. On occasions further tests, referrals and/or follow-up examinations may be necessary, and the reasons behind this will be explained when the results are discussed with you. For example, a follow-up examination may be required if there is a suspicious finding which warrants further investigation or if there’s a known abnormality that needs to be monitored over time.
Follow-up may also be necessary if the initial view was limited, and therefore additional images are required before a proper assessment can be made.
Within 24 hours of the examination you will be provided with a final written report. If you require, this report can also be sent to either your GP, healthcare provider or physiotherapist who will then contact you to make arrangements to discuss the results given in the report.
ScanAssure is an accredited NHS Business Partner and we have been supplying Private and GP community ultrasound diagnostics since 2009.