Types of Ultrasounds to Learn for Aspiring Ultrasound Technicians

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It takes two years to become an ultrasound technician. In these two years, ultrasound technicians learn different types of ultrasounds. So will you as you progress through the course.

Imagine helping an expectant mother learn the sex of her fetus, or helping answer the questions of a pain patient. Ultrasounds are diagnostic tools. They produce images of the organs and internal structures of the body. Ultrasounds rely on sound waves to produce the images.

These scans help diagnose and track various diseases and medical conditions. Ultrasound technicians work with doctors and radiologists. Diagnostic sonographers also help interpret these images.

The future is bright for ultrasound technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market is promising. The median average pay is roughly $65,000. Additionally, job opportunities in this field are set to grow by 46 percent between 2012 and 2022.

It’s worth noting that for all other occupations, the average growth rate is 14 percent. This means that we will need more than 21,000 new ultrasound technicians.

How Ultrasounds are Changing Health Care

Ultrasounds have come a long way since 1956. You can tell by the types of ultrasounds now available. One of the main reasons they are so popular is that they’re non-invasive. And they’re safe. Today’s ultrasounds are not just used to look at unborn babies.

There’s better transducer sensitivity. The beamformer, faster image processing speed and higher quality of final data display help to make ultrasounds more impressive than ever before. The resolution of images is infinitely better than it was a decade ago. Ultrasound scans now see finer and deeper structures as small as 2mm.

For this reason, various types of ultrasounds are now used as interventional tools. Once these interventions were limited to CT scans and MRIs. Now, doctors use ultrasound for image-guided biopsies and ablations. ​

Newer interventions tested in the ultrasonography field range from sonoelastrography to contrast-enhanced ultrasounds. Futuristic ultrasound phone technology and glasses for blind people should excite you. Ultrasonic levitation for drug delivery is another exciting development.

Types Of Ultrasounds

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Not all ultrasounds are the same. In fact, there are four distinct types of ultrasounds.

  • 2D ultrasound

This is the most widely used ultrasound. It produces a series of two-dimensional images of tissues and organs. The 2D ultrasound is the gold standard. Several diagnostic and obstetric conditions almost half a century later still use it.

  • 3D ultrasound

The original 2D ultrasounds paved the way for 3-dimensional images. The technician scans cross-sections of organs at different angles. Data is reconstructed into a three-dimensional image. A common use for 3D ultrasound pictures is to look at babies before they are born.

  • 4D ultrasound Imaging

Newer technology has made it possible to add time. This produces a rapid succession of 3D images with movement. As a result, 4D ultrasounds can reveal abnormalities that 2D and 3D ultrasounds can’t detect.

  • Doppler ultrasound

Doppler ultrasounds check blood flow through vessels. They analyze high-frequency sound waves that bounce off blood when it is in motion. The technician records changes in frequency. He or she then converts this data into images depicting how fast the blood is moving and the direction of flow. It has become preferable to X-ray angiography because it doesn’t use contrast dyes.

Most ultrasound images are in black and white. However, color Dopplers use colors to see and measure blood flow.

Functional Types of Ultrasounds

Based on their functions, here are the different types of ultrasounds available.

Obstetric and gynecologic sonography

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When you mention ultrasound, this is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Obstetric sonographers image the developing baby inside the uterus.

It measures and assesses the growth and development through all three trimesters. Sonographers who specialize in obstetric ultrasounds find themselves caring for a woman during some of the happiest (and scariest) moments of her life.

Gynecologic ultrasounds take images of the female pelvic area. Apart from pregnancy, this type of ultrasound also studies other conditions of the female reproductive system, including ovarian cysts, uterine abnormalities, fibroids, and abnormal growths.

Gynecologic sonographers use transabdominal and transvaginal ultrasounds. In fact, now doctors are working to combine power Dopplers with transvaginal and transabdominal ultrasounds.

Cardiovascular and vascular sonography

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These technicians work with doctors to assess heart health. They also evaluate the health of the vascular system. They generally perform this non-invasively. And the scans are important to help cardiologists make important cardiac diagnoses.

Occasionally, they may also assist with invasive procedures such as the insertion of cardiac catheters and cardiac stress tests. Since the geriatric population is on the rise, cardiac health will become a major focus in the years to come. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects this segment to increase by 29 percent.

Intravascular ultrasound is a type of vascular interventional sonography. Here, the technician introduces an ultrasound device into the blood vessel to study the Coronary arteries. It is a diagnostic and therapeutic tool. Data also suggests that carotid and extra carotid sonography are reliable.

This is true for studies of carotid atherosclerosis as well as vascular pathology in the abdomen. Currently, researchers are studying it as a cheaper noninvasive alternative to laparotomy.


Here, ultrasound technicians perform ultrasounds on the brain and the nervous system. Doctors recommend it for infants and geriatric patients. Among the various types of ultrasounds, neuro sonography detects and monitors neurological abnormalities such as stroke, hemorrhages, arterial dissections, and blood disorders.

Breakthroughs in neuro sonography have been nothing short of amazing. In perinatal medicine, doctors work to lessen the number of infants with neurological impairment. It’s described as a lifebuoy in neonatology. It can safely identify congenital and acquired conditions within the first minutes of a baby’s life, which reduces neonatal mortality.

Ophthalmologic sonography

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Breakthroughs in neuro sonography have been nothing short of amazing. In perinatal medicine, doctors work to lessen the number of infants with neurological impairment. It’s described as a lifebuoy in neonatology. It can safely identify congenital and acquired conditions within the first minutes of a baby’s life, which reduces neonatal mortality.

Breast sonography

Breast ultrasounds are more comprehensive than mammograms. They’re used in women younger than 40 to test dense breast tissue. Technicians will sometimes use it to confirm or re-evaluate findings from the mammogram. In addition, medical professionals can use ultrasounds to confirm a breast examination finding. ​

The scans allow doctors to visualize all layers and angles of the breast. Breast sonography plays a significant role in the early detection of breast pathology. Their role in breast cancer screening, preoperative staging, and intervention are gradually increasing.

Abdominal and Genitourinary Sonography

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Abdomen sonography takes ultrasound scans of the organs in the abdominal region. The soft tissues here include the liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, and gallbladder. Ultrasounds can diagnose many medical conditions in this area.

They aren’t limited to kidney stones, gallstones, cancer and liver cirrhosis. Some technicians performing these types of scans may also assist surgeons during procedures such as ultrasound-guided biopsies.

Genitourinary sonography scans organs from the urinary and reproductive systems. It captures images of urinary and genital organs. Patients can be both males or females, adults or children. Genitourinary complications are plentiful, and ultrasound offers non-invasive early detection. Despite its limitations, ultrasound offers many advantages over CT and MRI.

It doesn’t involve ionizing radiation, considered risky in pregnant patients and children. These scans are safe in patients who are allergic contrast agents that contain iodine.

It’s also safe in those with cardiac pacemakers. These types of ultrasounds are not limited by renal or organ function. Ultrasound guidance imaging assists in performing renal biopsies. They guide nephrostomy tube insertions and ureteral stents placements. Intraoperatively they can guide lesion resections and treat various conditions.

Echocardiography and pediatric/fetal echocardiography

Echocardiography is a type of ultrasound performed on the heart. It also studies its valves and associated structures. They are mostly non-invasive. A Doppler sonography is better when the direction and speed of blood flow are particularly important. It studies the blood flow through blood vessels and the heart. Doppler ultrasounds produce audio and visual scans.

Ultrasounds can detect heart defects even before a baby is born. Technicians perform the fetal echocardiography on expecting mothers. If a sonogram reports an irregular heartbeat in the fetus, then it calls for an echo.

These scans are instrumental during procedures for treatment and surgery. In high-risk pregnancies, they have become indispensable for studying fetal hemodynamics. It can identify babies that are not thriving in the womb. And has several benefits to women with uteroplacental or fetoplacental circulation problems.

Musculoskeletal sonography

In the field of sports medicine, this is one of the types of ultrasounds that has become popular. Musculoskeletal (MSK) sonography is also used in rheumatology and orthopedics. Specialties dealing with joints, muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments also use it. These technicians help diagnose musculoskeletal injuries. 

They also track the disease progression of arthritis and treatment of these conditions. In the past, most soft tissue diseases required invasive procedures. This helped determine the state of the joint. Ultrasound has been instrumental in bridging the gap. To check soft tissue injuries and diseases, an ultrasound seems a better choice.

Why Ultrasound Technician Is a Good Career Choice

New ultrasound technicians will typically work in hospitals and radiologic centers. The shifts are usually about eight hours long. On a normal day, you could expect to see 10-15 patients for ultrasounds. Your daily routine will involve interactions with patients, physicians, radiologists and other technicians.

The career is rewarding both financially and socially. You can meet new people every day and no two days will be the same. With the projected job growth, it’s an exciting field to be in. With an associate degree, you can find a job in as little as two years.

Are you considering going to school for your ultrasound technician? If so, the data above should convince you that it’s a good career choice. With all the types of ultrasound you have to study, you just can’t go wrong.

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