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What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?

Also known as: Cardiac Vascular Sonographer, Obstetric and Gynecologic Sonographer, Neurosonographer, Musculoskeletal Sonographer, Cardiac Sonographer, Breast Sonographer, Abdominal Sonographer, Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Ultrasonographer, Sonographer.

A diagnostic medical sonographer is someone who uses special imaging equipment that directs sound waves into a patient’s body (in a procedure commonly known as an ultrasound, sonogram, or echocardiogram) to assess and diagnose various medical conditions.

What does a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer do?

Diagnostic ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The diagnostic medical sonographer presses an instrument called an ultrasound transducer to the parts of the patient’s body that are being examined. The transducer emits pulses of sound that bounce back, causing echoes. The echoes are then sent to the ultrasound machine, which processes them and displays them as images.

Some responsibilities of a diagnostic medical sonographer include:

  • Preparing patients for procedures by taking a patient’s history and answering any questions about the procedure
  • Preparing and maintaining imaging equipment
  • Applying a gel to aid the sound waves’ ability to show the inside of the body
  • Operating equipment to get diagnostic images of areas in the patient’s body
  • Analyzing the images to check for quality and adequate coverage of the area needed for diagnosis
  • Recognizing the difference between normal and abnormal images
  • Analyzing images to provide preliminary findings for physicians
  • Recording findings and keeping track of patients’ records

Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in different parts of the body. The following are examples of specific types of sonographers:

  • Abdominal sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen.

  • Breast sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s breast tissues. Sonography aids mammography in the detection of breast cancer. Breast sonography is also used to track tumours in breast cancer patients.

  • Musculoskeletal sonographers specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints.

  • Neurosonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s nervous system, including the brain.

  • Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. Many pregnant women receive ultrasounds to track the baby's growth and health.

  • Cardiovascular and vascular technologists use sonography to assist physicians in diagnosing problems with a patient’s heart, arteries and veins.

What is the workplace of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer like?

Most diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals. Some work in physicians’ offices or imaging clinics. Diagnostic medical sonographers do most of their work at diagnostic imaging machines in dimly lit rooms, but they may also perform procedures at patients' bedsides. Sonographers may be on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are disabled.

How can I become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?

Diagnostic medical sonographers need formal education, such as an associate’s degree or a postsecondary certificate. Employers prefer a degree or certificate from an accredited institute or hospital program. Colleges and universities offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography. One-year certificate programs also are available, although these are usually useful only to those who are already employed in related healthcare jobs, such as nursing.


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