Why are ultrasound images in greyscale? What do the white and grey colors represent? How should you orient yourself with an ultrasound image?
If you’re not sure about these questions, you need to learn about ultrasound interpretations. Whether you’re a patient or a health care provider, it’s important to understand the basics of ultrasound readings.
The greyscale coloring makes the images extremely difficult to understand at first. However, with a few pointers in the right direction, you’ll be reading ultrasounds in no time.
The main thing to remember when making ultrasound interpretations is to take your time, especially while you’re learning. If you’re unsure of something, don’t be afraid to have someone else take a second look. The more practice you get, the more comfortable you’ll become when writing an ultrasound interpretation.
To learn more, keep reading.
1. Orient Yourself
The first thing that you’re going to want to do is to orient yourself. You can do this by sectioning off the images that you’re looking at.
First, don’t pay attention to the numbers at the top of the screen. These aren’t instrumental in reading the ultrasound picture, although you may need them for documentation purposes. When it comes to reading the actual ultrasound picture, these numbers will not affect your reading at all.
Next, you’ll want to find out where the top of the picture is located. The top of an ultrasound picture depends on the placement of the ultrasound probe. On your screen, it’s likely that the top of the picture will be the top of the screen.
However, in the case that it’s not, you should look for the top of the cone-like shape that you’re looking at. The ultrasound picture itself fans out from a small end into a bigger end. The small end is the top of the image.
If you’re visualizing a fetal ultrasound, the top of the image is likely going to look like a lot of dense tissues. This corresponds to the top of the uterus and/or the tissue that’s above the uterus.
2. Define the Colors
Ultrasound pictures showcase different colors depending on how the sound waves bounce off of the substance. For solid substances like bones, the picture will appear white. For liquid substances like amniotic fluid, the picture will appear grey.
Solid substances appear white because the sound waves bounce off of solid objects more, projecting more light back at the probe. Liquids absorb some of the sound waves, so those substances appear grey. The differences in the densities of bodily materials will show as different shades of white and grey on the ultrasound.
As you look at the ultrasound, you should try to locate all of the landmarks that you need to find. Depending on the part of the body that you’re looking at, you may need to find the walls of the uterus or the chambers of the heart.
3. Consider Mirroring
Some ultrasounds produce a mirror image of the body, while others don’t. If you’re actively performing an ultrasound on a patient while you’re deciphering it, you should be able to tell whether you’re looking at a straight shot ultrasound or a mirrored ultrasound.
Most ultrasounds that you’re going to use in a clinical setting will have a mirror-like effect. This happens when the left side of the body shows up on the left side of the screen.
One common clinical ultrasound that uses straight shot imaging is transvaginal ultrasound. With this kind of imaging, you’ll see the left side of the body on the right side of the screen.
If you’re unsure about the kind of ultrasound that you’re looking at, you should ask an ultrasound technician. As you’re writing your ultrasound interpretation, you need to be able to distinguish the right side of the body from the left side of the body.
4. Look for Visual Effects
Ultrasounds aren’t perfect. Often, you may find that the sound waves don’t evenly bounce off of the body. In turn, you’ll get different kinds of visual effects based on the settings of the ultrasound, the angle of the probe, or the density of the body’s tissues.
The first common visual disturbance is enhancement. An enhancement is a bright spot on the ultrasound. It marks a structure that has excess fluid. You may find this visual effect in patients who have cysts.
The next common effect is attenuation. Attenuation is the darkening or shadowing of the ultrasound image.
Lastly, we should cover anisotropy. This is a visual disturbance that occurs with incorrect probe placement.
If you hold the probe at the wrong angle, you’ll cause the sound waves to hit the tendons in such a way that causes them to appear brighter. To get rid of this problem, you should readjust the probe to come into contact with the body perpendicularly.
Bonus: The Fetal Ultrasound
If you’re reading a fetal ultrasound, you need to be able to spot the baby and its different parts.
First, you should identify the womb. This is going to be a black area that represents the amniotic fluid.
Within that amniotic fluid, you should see the fetus. It will appear grey and white, depending on the features of its body. These will differ throughout the stages of pregnancy.
To determine your baby’s sex, you should wait until around 18 to 20 weeks. For a boy, you’ll see an outline of a penis. For a girl, you’ll see three lines that represent the labia.
As you’re determining the sex, keep in mind that ultrasound images aren’t 100% accurate. Visual interruptions could alter the image.
Get Ultrasound Interpretations With Teleradiology
If you’re not one for writing ultrasound interpretations, we can help. Our teleradiology services are perfect for a busy office that doesn’t have time to read every single ultrasound.
Our team of professionals is experienced at reading ultrasounds and other kinds of imaging. Plus, we can get the ultrasound interpretations back to you quickly.
To get started, contact us for a free consult. We can’t wait to talk about how our team can help yours.