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What Does an Ultrasonographer Do?

By T. Briseno
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An ultrasonographer is a medical professional trained to use and interpret the results of diagnostic imaging, or sonography. Often, imaging technology is part of tracking pregnancy and the prenatal health of babies, but it is also a tool in diagnosing abnormalities or disease. Ultrasonographers, also called diagnostic medical sonographers or ultrasound technicians, use the technology of sonography along with the foundations of medical training to diagnose conditions. While most ultrasound professionals are not doctors, they work with them to pinpoint problems so treatment can begin.

Many obstetrics and gynecological (OB/GYN) offices have an ultrasonographer on staff to perform scheduled ultrasound imaging for pregnant patients. Usually, this entails applying a clear gel over the patient's abdomen, which helps in picking up the waves of sound. A flat, hand-held device called a transducer is then used to glide over the surface of the stomach, often targeting specific areas on the top, bottom, or sides. While the ultrasonographer is using the transducer, images are formed as the sound waves of the machine rebound off of the organs and growths in the body. These images are transmitted to a monitor for live viewing and can be printed as photographs or captured as video for replaying.

Hospitals staff ultrasonographers to administer diagnostic imaging of OB/GYN patients as well as for patients who are not pregnant. Ultrasounds can capture images of all of the major internal organs and even some blood vessels, and an ultrasonographer can "read" and interpret the results to assist in diagnosing problems in and around the abdomen. Some abnormalities they look for are growths, bleeding, and swelling, as well as kidney or gallbladder stones and hernias.

To an untrained eye, diagnostic imaging might look like nothing more than black and gray and white blobs and static, but ultrasonographers are trained to identify and interpret the results of this sonography. Becoming an ultrasound technician requires specialized schooling and clinical training through an associate's or bachelor's degree program, averaging about two to four years of study. Two organizations in the United States, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, offer information on degree programs and accreditation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other job forecasts, opportunities for employment as an ultrasonographer were likely to increase in the 21st century.

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