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What is an Ultrasound Machine?

You probably know that an Ultrasound Machine is most commonly used during pregnancy to view the fetus. You might also know that it is also commonly used to evaluate pain and swelling, the gallbladder, pancreas, eyes, thyroid, and much more. The machine can even be used to guide needle biopsies. But what actually is an Ultrasound?

Ultrasound is also known as Sonography, and the person who conducts the machine is called a Sonographer. There are three different types of Ultrasound: Color Doppler, which uses color in order to show the speed and direction of blood flow; Power Doppler, which provides greater detail of blood flow, but doesn’t provide the direction of it; and Spectral Doppler, which displays blood flow measurements graphically instead of a picture. In addition to the regular full size Ultrasounds, there are Portable Ultrasounds as well.

The transducer probe, which is the probe used with Ultrasound gel to glide over the area being viewed, is the key to the machine. Ultrasound machines are powered by high frequency sound waves, which are transmitted from the transducer probe into the body, where the sounds bounce off. The transducer then collects the sounds and uses them to create an image on the Ultrasound computer.

Piezoelectric crystals are located inside the transducer, and when an electric current is applied to the crystals, they change shape at a very rapid rate and create vibrations of the crystals that move outwards. When the sound waves hit the crystals, they emit electrical currents.

The Ultrasound computer is called the CPU, or Central Processing Unit, and does all of the calculations needed for the machine. It contains the microprocessor, memory, amplifiers, and power supplies for the microprocessor and transducer probe. The CPU sends electrical currents to the transducer in order to emit sound waves, as well as receive electrical pulses. It then collects all of the data from the machine and creates an image on its monitor.  It can also store the data and images.

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