Ultrasound, not surprisingly, is commonly associated with pregnancy. But ultrasound technology plays a diverse role in patient care at Mary Greeley Medical Center, including radiology, cardiopulmonary and gastrointestinal services.

Ultrasound technology at Mary Greeley Medical Center offers a useful, relatively quick way for health care teams to evaluate patients. Advanced equipment is utilized for both inpatient and outpatient procedures.

What is an Ultrasound?

Non-invasive and nearly risk-free, an ultrasound relies on reflected sound waves (passed into the body through a transducer) to create pictures of vessels or organs inside the body. Those sound waves are then transformed into graphs or photos for use by a healthcare team. There are several different types of ultrasound, including Doppler, carotid, transcranial, endoscopic, and Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram.

Mary Greeley also has ultrasound equipment that can help access deep arteries and veins for catheter placement.

Ultrasound used in Radiology:

Doppler Ultrasound

Doppler ultrasound is probably the most common ultrasound performed. There are three different types of Doppler ultrasound, including:

  • Bedside or continuous wave Doppler, which uses the change in pitch of the sound waves to provide information about blood flow through a blood vessel and can be performed bedside with a portable machine.
  • Duplex Doppler creates a picture of a blood vessel and the surrounding organs, giving information about the speed and direction of blood flow through the blood vessel.
  • Color Doppler, which converts the Doppler sounds into colors that are overlaid on the image of the blood vessel and that represent the speed and direction of blood flow through the vessel within solid organs.

Doppler ultrasound has a range of uses as health care professionals evaluate conditions and determine courses of treatment. They include:

  • Locating blood clots and blocked or narrowed blood vessels in almost any part of the body, especially in the neck, arms, and legs.
  • Evaluating leg pain that may be caused by intermittent claudication, a condition caused by atherosclerosis of the lower extremities
  • Assessing varicose veins or other vein problems, as well as mapping veins to be used for blood vessel grafts
  • Discovering the blood flow to a transplanted kidney or liver, as well as monitoring the flow of blood following blood vessel surgery
  • Checking the health of a fetus, including size; blood flow in the umbilical cord, through the placenta, or in the heart and brain; and Rh sensitization as well as if the mother has other problems, such as preeclampsia or sickle cell disease

Carotid Ultrasound

Carotid ultrasound helps detect built-up plaque and narrowed arteries, which is a primary indicator of increased stroke risk. Carotid ultrasounds are often performed for patients who have certain conditions, including high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, and family history of heart disease. A carotid ultrasound also helps your doctor evaluate any heart disease measures, such as stent placement.

Ultrasound Guided Biopsies

When a lump or abnormality is discovered during physical examination or imaging procedure, a biopsy might be needed to determine whether the growth is benign or cancerous. An ultrasound may be used to guide instruments to the site of the growth to remove cells for further testing.

Ultrasound Guided Paracentesis and Thoracentesis

Paracentesis is a procedure used to remove fluid collected in the belly, while thoracentesis is a procedure used to remove fluid from the space between the lungs and chest wall. In both procedures, an ultrasound may be used to indicate the location of the fluid to be removed.

Ultrasound used in Gastroenterology:

Endoscopic Ultrasound

During Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS), a small ultrasound transducer, located on top of an endoscope, is inserted into the upper or the lower digestive tract.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) combines images captured by an endoscope (inserted in the mouth and throat) with x-ray pictures to allow doctors to closely examine the tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. In addition to providing images for healthcare professionals, ERCP can also help treat certain conditions, such as gallstones and narrowed ducts, or gather tissue for biopsy. ERCP is also useful for examining persistent abdominal pain or jaundice and measuring pressure inside the bile ducts.

Ultrasound used in Pregnancy:

Obstetrics and Gynecological Imaging Ultrasound

Ultrasound can be used to confirm early pregnancy and monitor fetal development. Ultrasound is also used for a variety of gynecologic procedures, including screening for ovarian cancer, determining the cause of pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding, measuring the thickness of the lining of the uterus, detecting the presence of fibroids or polyps, visualizing the ovaries if there is a suspicion of an abnormal growth.

Ultrasound used in Heart Care:


An echocardiogram, or “echo” for short, uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart’s thickness, size, function, as well as the motion pattern and structure of the heart’s four valves. Physicians use this information to detect heart abnormalities. An echo test can sometimes be used with an electrocardiogram.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram

This echocardiogram procedureinvolves a doctor guiding a flexible tube or probe with a transducer at its tip down your throat and into your esophagus. This method provides more detailed pictures of your heart because the esophagus is directly behind the heart.

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