Angie's LIST Guide to
Ultrasound Diagnostics

An ultrasound technician uses radiation-free imaging technology to diagnose potential health issues, discover unseen defects and examine the progression of healing for an injury or illness.


An ultrasound of a fetus
Ultrasound technology is frequently used during pregnancy as a way to monitor the baby's health. It can also be used to analyze other areas of the body. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Cagney S.)

Duties of an ultrasound technician

Ultrasound diagnostic specialists use a device that emits high frequency sound waves that produce images of tissues, blood flow and organs within the body. Vascular technologists and sonographers employ this radiation-free imaging to study many areas of the body.

Specialists help patients prepare for the ultrasound by applying a gel to the skin of the area being visualized. They analyze the images to ensure the area under examination is covered, and they assist in locating preliminary findings. Technicians operate, maintain and prepare the ultrasound equipment. They can tell the difference between abnormal and normal images and track a patient's records and findings.

Those specializing in vascular technology will perform both noninvasive and invasive tests. Invasive tests generally involve probes.

Ultrasound technician qualifications

Ultrasound technicians are often required to possess a minimum of an associate's degree, and some have only a post-secondary certificate. A large majority of employers also require those in this field to hold a special certification.

Technicians specialize in helping diagnose both potential health issues and progression of healing. For example, those who specialize in obstetrics can help expectant parents see their developing baby and track the mom's reproductive tract during pregnancy.

Many specialists have a subspecialty. Abdominal sonographers analyze the abdominal cavity and organs closeby, such as the liver, pancreas, kidney, gallbladder and spleen. Musculoskeletal sonographers evaluate the ligaments, joints, muscles and tendons. Gynecologic and obstetric sonographers examine the female reproductive system and the developing fetus. Breast sonographers concentrate on breast health and often play an integral role in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment progress. Neurosonographers study the brain and nervous system. Ophthalmology sonographers focus on the eyes and their structures. Echocardiographers study the heart's blood flow and the associated valves. Vascular technologists work with abdominal blood vessels and the blood flow of the peripheral vessels.

Within these subspecialties, those in this field can assist in the diagnosis and tracking of a wide variety of injuries and illnesses.

Choosing an ultrasound technician

Ultrasounds can be tricky to read, which is why you should seek out a specialist who is highly trained in this field. You'll want someone who can get the correct images and who can quickly identify abnormalities to relay to your doctor.

If your doctor feels that this type of technology will be beneficial, he can refer you to a specialist who is both competent and skilled. Do a little extra research before undergoing this type of test. Check Angie's List for that specialists certifications, education and affiliated hospitals. You can also check member reviews and ratings.

Look at the referred specialist to see which type of training he or she has and check years in the field, as those with experience are likely to have a solid eye for recognizing abnormalities.

If you needs a specific area looked at, such as the brain, find a specialist who has special interest and experience in this body system because he or she will likely be more effective than a generalist.


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