Ultrasound uses reflected sound waves to produce an image
of organs and other structures in the body. This technology can help doctors pinpoint the location of tissue for testing or treatment. For
example, ultrasound can be used to help guide the placement of a needle or
other instrument during a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure to collect a sample
of tissue collected from an organ or other part of the body. The tissue is then
examined for abnormalities, such as cancer, by a doctor trained to look at
tissue samples (pathologist).
Gel or oil may be used on the skin
to help transmit the sound waves. A small handheld instrument called a
transducer is passed back and forth over the area of the body being examined.
The transducer sends out high-pitched sound waves (above the range of human
hearing) that are reflected back to the transducer. A computer analyzes the
reflected sound waves and converts them into a picture. From this picture, the
doctor can identify the location of tissue for biopsy and can use the
ultrasound image to guide the needle into the selected tissue for sampling. The
needle itself may have a special tip that is very reflective under ultrasound,
so that it shows up well in the image.
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