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The latest ultrasound breakthroughs and how they impact techs

By Aimee Hosler,

Here is an overview of some recent technological developments in sonography, and what they could mean for ultrasound techs. Ultrasonography uses sound waves to generate images for medical assessment and diagnosis, and the uses of diagnostic ultrasound are expanding. While ultrasound is already considered a viable alternative to more expensive imaging procedures--like CT scans or MRI--its usefulness in other fields is making waves.

These new applications underscore the importance of ultrasound technician schools, continuing education and credentials. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects faster than average job growth for diagnostic medical sonographers between 2008 and 2018, especially for techs with multiple specialties and credentials.

Ultrasound to assess psychiatric risks in premature infants

Preemies face a variety of developmental challenges, including psychiatric disorders. According to a team of Columbia University Medical Center researchers, ultrasound can predict an infant's psychiatric risks. The team's findings, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, noted that those with neonatal ultrasound abnormalities were at increased risk for certain psychiatric disorders, including tic disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.

Premature birth is a growing problem in the United States: The March of Dimes reports that the rate of premature birth has grown by 36 percent since the early 1980s, and each year, more than half a million babies are born prematurely. Diagnostic ultrasound--and skilled ultrasound technicians--may consider work in neonatal intensive care units, or NICUs.

Ultrasound to predict heart attacks in patients with HIV

HIV patients face an increased risk of blood vessel blockages that result in heart attacks. According to the American Heart Association, new research indicates heart ultrasound tests may be able to predict these fatal attacks.

The report, published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, notes that the heart attack risk among HIV patients who have abnormal heart ultrasound tests, or "stress echoes," is 10 times higher than in the general population, and more than three times higher than in non-HIV patients with abnormal heart ultrasounds. With ultrasound, physicians treating HIV patients can offer these patients more aggressive treatment, potentially improving outcomes.

Cardio ultrasound technicians are certified by groups like Cardiovascular Credentialing International. According to the BLS, technologists who use ultrasound to examine the heart chambers, valves and vessels are also referred to as cardiac sonographers, or echocardiographers. Job growth in this field is expected to be much faster than average from 2008 through 2018, especially for techs with multiple professional credentials.

Transvaginal ultrasound one-ups HSG in diagnosing uterine abnormalities

Reproductive endocrinologists have long used hysterosalpingography, or HSG, to diagnose certain uterine abnormalities, a procedure that injects dye into a patient's uterine cavity. The procedure is often uncomfortable and expensive, especially among patients with little to no insurance coverage for infertility. According to a study from Eastern Virginia Medical School, 3D transvaginal ultrasound may provide practitioners and their patients with an alternative to HSG.

The prospective study, which included 103 women, found that 3D transvaginal ultrasound imaged and evaluated the uterine cavity with equal or better accuracy than standard HSG, and with a reduced cost. Techs may want to study this new use of ultrasound in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology or infertility.

Demand for certified ultrasound techs

Expanded use of diagnostic sonography should create demand for qualified ultrasound techs, especially those who have earned applicable certifications or who have sought continuing education to ensure that their skills are current. Ultrasound tech schools can provide working and future technologists with the training to keep up with advances in this field.

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