Examining The Different Types Of Ultrasound Scans & Their Benefits

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When you hear the term “ultrasound,” chances are you associate it as an imaging procedure for pregnant women—and you wouldn’t be wrong. Ultrasounds provide wonderful insight into the baby’s growth and development throughout the course of pregnancy. That being said, the technology is incredibly versatile, and is actually used for so much more than just traditional pregnancy ultrasounds. Ultrasounds can be a great diagnostic tool to detect many medical issues, and there’s a variety of types of ultrasounds available for clinical use.

Unless you’re familiar with the technology, you might not know that there are different types of ultrasounds including 2-D, 3-D, 4-D, and Doppler ultrasounds. In this article we’ll take some time to dive into the different types of ultrasounds available and the differences between them.

What is an ultrasound?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, first we should discuss what an ultrasound is. An ultrasound scan, also known as a sonogram, is an imaging method that produces images of internal organs through the use of high-frequency sound waves and without the need for radiation. An ultrasound scan can identify masses (such as breast cancer), fibroids, kidney stones, causes of uterine bleeding, or the sex and health condition of a fetus.

What are the different types of ultrasounds available?

Advances in technology have given way to newer methods of ultrasound imaging, including 3D and 4D ultrasounds. Although 2D ultrasounds are usually high quality enough to diagnose diseases or ailments, or to be used during pregnancy, 3-D and 4-D ultrasounds allow for even more detailed images rather than a flat 2-D image on a screen.  A Doppler ultrasound is a noninvasive test that can be used to estimate the blood flow through your blood vessels by bouncing high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) off circulating red blood cells.

What’s the difference between 3-D ultrasounds, 4-D ultrasounds and Doppler ultrasounds?

The main difference between 3D and 4D ultrasounds is that a 4D ultrasound is able to create live video instead of just 3D images. 3D ultrasounds, on the other hand, give physicians the ability to more clearly examine additional nooks and crannies that could contain medical issues that 2D ultrasounds may otherwise miss. Doppler ultrasounds take things a step further, enhancing traditional ultrasound technology with the added ability to show blood flow within the area being imaged.

Where can I get 2-D, 3-D, 4-D, and Doppler ultrasounds?

Most places utilize traditional 2-D ultrasounds and may offer 3-D ultrasounds, especially if a large portion of their patients are expectant mothers, since they often request 3-D ultrasounds to obtain more detailed images of their future child. It’s more rare for an imaging facility to regularly offer 4-D ultrasounds, however, since outside of the moving picture element there aren’t many clinical advantages to a 4-D ultrasound over a 3-D ultrasound. If you have a particular preference for the type of ultrasound you want to undergo, be sure to call ahead and make sure that the imaging center you’ve been referred to by your physician offers the type of scan you want!

As you can see, not all ultrasounds are created equal. Speak with your doctor first to discuss which type of ultrasound is best for your unique needs, and then be sure to select an imaging center that offers the technology.