What is an Ultrasound?
What is ultrasound? Simply put, ultrasound is sound that has a higher frequency than the audible range. Humans have a limited range of hearing, and ultrasound is higher than that. Its maximum frequency is about 20 kilohertz, far beyond what we can hear. Nevertheless, ultrasound has a multitude of practical applications. It can help medical professionals to diagnose and treat patients, and it is also used to make medical devices.
The technology behind ultrasonic imaging dates back to the late 18th century, when Professor Ian Donald, an engineer from Glasgow University, developed the first ultrasound machine, which he used to examine the wife of a company director. Adapting industrial ultrasound equipment made by Babcock & Wilcox, he studied the characteristics of various anatomical specimens to determine the optimal frequencies. With the help of Tom Brown, he refined the ultrasound equipment to use on patients.
In abdominal ultrasound imaging, the ultrasound beam is swept to generate a two-dimensional image of the body. The ultrasound probe may be mechanically swept, using a swing or rotating mechanism, or it can be electronically scanned. The received data is processed to produce the image. The two-dimensional images are then used to make a 3D image of the body. The first 3D image was generated in 1964 using the first commercial water bath ultrasonic scanner. Several other countries later, Meyerdirk & Wright started the production of the first compound contact B-mode scanner.
Currently, ultrasound is used in medical diagnosis and treatment. The device uses a transducer, transmitter pulse generator, focusing system, digital processor, and displays. It can be used for abdominal, cardiac, gynecological, urological, and cerebrovascular examinations. This technology is highly versatile and is considered a valuable tool in healthcare. In fact, it is becoming more common as a diagnostic tool.
The technique was developed by Professor Ian Donald in Glasgow in the 1950s. His wife, a company director, had a bowel cancer diagnosis and was the first to use ultrasound. With the aid of industrial ultrasound equipment, he evaluated the ultrasonic properties of various anatomical specimens. In 1962, Meyerdirk & Wright started the production of their first commercial compound contact B-mode scanner. In the following decades, the technique has been refined to produce 3-dimensional images.
Ultrasonic technology is based on sonar techniques that were developed in the 1940s. The equipment uses short bursts of sound that are transmitted to the target. The echoes are reflected by different objects or interfaces. The speed of sound reflects the distance from the transmitting object. Consequently, medical ultrasound is used in medical research. In addition to its clinical benefits, ultrasound has been used in clinical settings since the 1960s.
In 1953, doctors began using ultrasonic imaging in hospitals and clinics. A graduate student in the nuclear physics department at Lund University asked his father, Gustav Ludwig Hertz if it was possible to look inside the body using radar. Hertz responded that it was. Because he had a background in radiation, he was already familiar with the ultrasonic reflectoscopes invented by Floyd Firestone. Hertz and Edler soon developed an idea for using ultrasound in medicine.
To get a good image of an organ, the ultrasound beam needs to be swept. Depending on the type of tissue, a 2D ultrasound image can show an organ with a different shape. The ultrasound probe is a small, flexible instrument. As the beam moves, it can be easily seen by the human eye. In contrast, the ultrasound scanner’s beam is not so thin as a human’s. It is a very sensitive instrument and is capable of giving precise images.
The ultrasonic probe generates a two-dimensional image. It is mechanically swept, while the other two types are electronic. Then, the data is processed to build the image. The images are 2-D representations of slices of the body. Typically, a 3D image is produced through multiple 2D images. In some cases, ultrasound is a vital tool for treating diseases and improving the quality of life. For instance, it helps to detect tumors and other types of cancer.
The basic principle of ultrasonic technology is to detect defects in a material. An X-ray or ultrasound machine can detect flaws in a variety of materials, including metals, whereas a piezoelectric transducer detects the same flaws with a pulsating ultrasound. A curved or broken piece of metal can be detected with an arc-shaped wave. If the beam is weaker, it can even damage internal organs.
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