Ultrasound technology has its origins in England in the 1920's. It began as SONAR, developed by the British in WWI to locate objects underwater. Not until the 1950's, however, was it used medically. It wasn't until the 1970's, through technological advances, that it became the main stream imaging modality it is today. The word ultrasound was coined to denote the high frequency sound waves used to generate the pictures. The images can be obtained as a single picture (static) or in real-time (continuous images that change with the position of the ultrasound probe). The images are typically generated by placing a probe or transducer on the skin surface. The transducer produces the sound waves and receives the echoes generated. A computer then processes the information and presents images to the radiologist for interpretation.
Ultrasound imaging is used extensively for evaluating the pelvic /abdominal organs and blood vessels. It can help a physician determine the source of pain, swelling, or infection in many parts of the body. Superficial tissues commonly examined include the thyroid and scrotum. In children, the use of ultrasound literally extends from head to toe. Because ultrasound provides real-time images, it can also be used to guide procedures such as needle biopsies.