Diagnostic medical sonographers use 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 medical sonographers typically do the following:
Diagnostic ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of the body. The 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.
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 tumors 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. For more information, see the profile on cardiovascular technologists and technicians and vascular technologists.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition