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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Like most careers in the medical field, sonographers are pretty much in demand these days, especially since ultrasound is being considered by many as a viable option over invasive procedures or radiation-based imaging. In order to become successful in this career, there are certain qualities and skills that you should have.
Basic skills for diagnostic medical sonographers include solid technical skills for operating the equipment and getting usable images, the physical skills of good hand-eye coordination to move equipment on the patient’s body in correspondence to what appears on the screen, stamina to stand for long periods of time and the ability to lift and move patients as needed.
A sonographer uses high frequency sound waves to create detailed images of various areas of the human anatomy. The sound waves bounce off of internal organs and return to an ultrasound device, which transforms them into real-time images.