Sonogram vs Ultrasound: What’s the Difference?

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Many things are described with interchangeable terms even though only one is technically correct. For example, when you say that you are eating barbecue, you are actually having a meal of barbequed meats. While this may not matter on a menu, when it relates to healthcare, you want to know exactly what is being described. One example is a sonogram vs ultrasound. These terms are often interchanged for the picture that pregnant mothers receive of their developing child. However, only one is technically correct.

What Is Ultrasound?

High frequency sound waves are called ultrasound. In healthcare, ultrasound can be used therapeutically or diagnostically. Therapeutic ultrasound machines use high frequency sound to heat tissue or drive in medication. Diagnostic ultrasound units use similar sound waves to create an image. Generally, this requires much less power. Diagnostics ultrasound units are often used by medical doctors or technicians who are trained to use these machines, often with specialties for understanding scans of specific body parts. These technicians are called ultrasound technicians or sonographers.

What Is a Sonogram?

The whole field of using ultrasound to create images is called sonography. The images created are sonograms. So, an ultrasound tech or sonographer takes a sonogram with a diagnostic ultrasound machine.

Sonogram vs Ultrasound?

Although not technically correct, sonograms are often called ultrasounds. Actually, healthcare is full of situations like this where multiple terms describe the same thing. For example, the correct term is radiograph, but radiology images are generally called x-rays. So, in healthcare, sonogram vs ultrasound are functionally identical terms that both describe the picture produced.

Is There a Need for Sonogram and Ultrasound?

Although you can use either term to describe the images, the images from diagnostic ultrasound are extremely valuable. Ultrasound does not have radiation side effects like x-rays, yet can create images of inside the body. These images can actually be used to create real-time movies, showing how structures move inside the body. Blood flow can also be measured by diagnostic ultrasound units with a feature called doppler. Finally, these images do not have to be flat as three-dimensional ultrasound imaging exists.


Because of these varied purposes, specialized training is often required for sonographers to image different parts of the body. For pregnancies, sonographers often have an obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) specialty. Sonographers with cardiac and vascular specialties can image the inside of a heart or blood vessel, tracking valves and blood flow. Multiple levels of certification may be required, including certification tests and additional post-graduate education. With these, sonography is a field where workers can advance to greater professional levels.


Although only one is the correct term, in practice, sonogram vs ultrasound makes no difference. Sonogram is the name of the picture, but many people call them ultrasounds. No matter what name is used, the images produced by diagnostic ultrasound are important for medical uses. These images are real-time, can be three-dimensional, and can show movement such as blood flow through heart valves. Because of this, working as sonographer can give you a rewarding profession with good pay and advancement opportunities.

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