Ultrasound of Small Parts
evaluate masses in women under 35
a needle for several interventional procedures
  Is an imaging technique for diagnosing breast disease.
    Ultrasound of Small Parts - Breast  

Breast ultrasound (or sonography) is an imaging technique for diagnosing breast disease. It uses harmless, high frequency sound waves to form an image (sonogram). The sound waves pass through the breast and bounce back or echo from various tissues to form a picture of the internal structures. It is not invasive and involves no radiation.


Breast ultrasound may be used in several ways. Its most common application is to investigate a specific area of the breast where a problem is suspected. A palpable lump and/or an abnormality discovered on a x ray (mammogram) can be further evaluated by ultrasound. It is especially helpful in distinguishing between a fluid filled cyst and a solid mass. A structure which has certain characteristics that prove it to be a simple cyst can be confidently diagnosed as benign. Ultrasound diagnosis of solid masses is less straightforward, but in many cases normal tissue can be differentiated from possibly malignant tissue with ultrasound.

Breast ultrasound is often the first study performed to evaluate masses in women under 35 whose mammograms can be difficult to interpret. The lack of radiation used with ultrasound makes it ideal for studying breast abnormalities in women who are pregnant. Assessing breast implants for leakage or rupture is another way ultrasound is used. Breast inflammation, where pockets of infection or abscesses may form, can be diagnosed and monitored by ultrasound.

Breast ultrasound is employed to observe and guide a needle for several interventional procedures. These include cyst aspiration, fine needle aspiration, large core needle biopsy, and needle localization before surgical breast biopsy.


The patient removes clothing from the waist up, and puts on a hospital gown, open in the front. She lies on her back or side on an examining table. A gel which enhances sound transmission is spread over the area to be examined. The technologist then places a transducer, an instrument about the size of an electric shaver, against the skin. The images from reflected sound waves appear on a monitor screen.

A good ultrasound study is difficult to obtain if a patient is unable to remain quietly in one position. Obesity may hinder clear viewing of internal structures and the accuracy of an ultrasound study is highly dependent on the skill of the person performing the examination. The images recorded vary with the angle and pressure of the transducer and the equipment settings. The examination may take from 30-45 minutes. Most insurance plans cover the cost of an ultrasound examination.
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