As of writing this blog post, I have had ultrasounds for four different medical reasons. Only one of them involved seeing my unborn child. Pregnancy was not the first reason I went for an ultrasound, and it wasn’t the last (well not directly, but we’ll get to that later). Prior to these experiences, I would have told you that pregnancy was the only reason to get an ultrasound performed, but, in fact, there are many other uses for an ultrasound machine.
Of course, there were many times that I got to see my little baby boy before he was born, thanks to the ultrasound. These were by far the best ultrasound experiences. Not only did I get to see his little face, but I was reassured that he was doing well and could see him moving around. I got pictures to take home to put on the refrigerator and save in his baby book. Because I became high-risk at the end of my pregnancy, I saw a specialist and was able to see my baby in 3D also! This is what comes to mind any time I hear the word “ultrasound.”
However, my first experience with an ultrasound happened four years before I got pregnant, when a doctor thought I might possibly have kidney stones. I did not, to my relief, but I remember my surprise when a doctor ordered an ultrasound to look inside my kidneys! I hadn’t realized that was an option or a use for ultrasound machines! Years later, while I was pregnant, I got an ultrasound in an emergency room to check if I had a blood clot in my leg. Even after my previous experience I was surprised to have an ultrasound technician taking photos of my leg!
My last non-pregnant experience with an ultrasound was pregnancy-related. Because the doctors who delivered my baby had issues removing the placenta when I gave birth, I had to go for several ultrasound check-ups to make sure there were no remaining materials that weren’t removed the day my baby was born. Each time I returned to the doctor for my ultrasound check-ups and they confirmed I was there for an ultrasound appointment, I assumed most everyone around me thought I must be pregnant and I fondly remembered those appointments.
These are the kinds of experiences we don’t necessarily associate with ultrasounds. I was surprised to find out, while writing this, that the ultrasound is the second most utilized form of diagnostic imaging, after the X-ray, according to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Some of its common usages, aside from fetal imaging during pregnancy, are:
- Breast imaging
- Heart imaging
- Screening for prostate cancer
- Checking for soft-tissue injuries or tumors
I also learned that ultrasounds have a lot of benefits other tests do not. They are a great way to diagnose medical issues because they are painless, fairly quick, and non-invasive. Patients are not exposed to ionizing radiation, like they are with an X-ray or CT scan. And, they are more widely accessible and affordable than other options.
To learn more about ultrasounds, here are some resources: