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Career Guide: Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Career Guide: Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

At a Glance

• Job opportunities should be favorable.

• Employment growth is expected to be faster than average as sonography becomes an increasingly attractive alternative to radiologic procedures.

• More than half of all sonographers were employed by hospitals, and most of the rest were employed by offices of physicians, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and mobile imaging services.

• Sonographers may train in hospitals, vocational-technical institutions, colleges and universities, and the Armed Forces; employers prefer those who trained in accredited programs and who are registered.

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Nature of the Work

Diagnostic imaging embraces several procedures that aid in diagnosing ailments. The most familiar procedures are the x ray and the magnetic resonance imaging; however, not all imaging technologies use ionizing radiation or radio waves. Sonography, or ultrasonography, is the use of sound waves to generate an image for the assessment and diagnosis of various medical conditions. Sonography commonly is associated with obstetrics and the use of ultrasound imaging during pregnancy, but this technology has many other applications in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions throughout the body.

Diagnostic medical sonographers use special equipment to direct nonionizing, high frequency sound waves into areas of the patient’s body. Sonographers operate the equipment, which collects reflected echoes and forms an image that may be videotaped, transmitted, or photographed for interpretation and diagnosis by a physician.

Sonographers begin by explaining the procedure to the patient and recording any medical history that may be relevant to the condition being viewed. They then select appropriate equipment settings and direct the patient to move into positions that will provide the best view. To perform the exam, sonographers use a transducer, which transmits sound waves in a cone- or rectangle-shaped beam. Although techniques vary with the area being examined, sonographers usually spread a special gel on the skin to aid the transmission of sound waves.

Viewing the screen during the scan, sonographers look for subtle visual cues that contrast healthy areas with unhealthy ones. They decide whether the images are satisfactory for diagnostic purposes and select which ones to store and show to the physician. Sonographers take measurements, calculate values, and analyze the results in preliminary findings for the physicians.

In addition to working directly with patients, diagnostic medical sonographers keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. They also may prepare work schedules, evaluate equipment purchases, or manage a sonography or diagnostic imaging department.


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