Definition of Ultrasound Technologist

Ultrasound Technologists Perform Ultrasound Procedures

Female technologist performing ultrasound on patient
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An ultrasound technologist, or more specifically a diagnostic ultrasound sonographer, is an allied healthcare professional who operates ultrasound equipment, taking measurements and images to aid in medical diagnosis by a physician. Ultrasound technologists usually need a minimum of two years of training to become certified and eligible for employment.

What Do Ultrasound Technologists Do?

In their role as healthcare providers who perform diagnostic ultrasounds, ultrasound technologists have various responsibilities including the following:

  • communicating with the patient
  • answering the patient's questions
  • explaining the procedure to the patient
  • guiding the patient through the procedure 
  • moving the patient as needed
  • documenting results of the procedure
  • discussing results and any concerns with the attending physician or the physician who is interpreting the results of the diagnostic ultrasound
  • adapting the procedure for optimal results
  • adhering to patient care standards both during and after the procedure
  • assessing the safety of the instruments used

What Instruments and Tools Does an Ultrasound Technologist Use?

  • transducer probe
  • ultrasound machine (monitor, keyboard, CPU and hard drive)
  • ultrasound gel
  • examination table
  • drapes

Different Kinds of Ultrasound Technologists

The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) administers credentialing exams and provides certification for ultrasound sonographers.

The ARDMS provides sonographer or technologist credentialing in the following fields:

  • registered diagnostic medical sonographer
  • registered vascular technologist 
  • registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer 
  • registered musculoskeletal sonographer

Each of these different fields of credentialing represents ultrasound done by a different sort of ultrasound sonographer or technologist.

For example, registered diagnostic medical sonographers do the following types of ultrasound procedures:

  • obstetrics and gynecology
  • fetal echocardiography
  • abdomen
  • pediatric sonography
  • breast sonography

To elaborate a bit, a diagnostic medical sonographer who is credentialed in abdominal ultrasound performs ultrasounds on the kidneys, liver and so forth. Another example, breast sonography is often done to look for evidence of breast cancer.

A registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer performs echocardiogram, or "echo."

Echo is done to evaluate the heart muscle and valves for the following reasons:

  • diagnosing heart diseases, such as heart failure, arrhythmias and valvular disease;
  • evaluating the progression of heart disease;
  • evaluating overall function;
  • evaluating medical or surgical treatments done on the heart (think stent or valve replacement).

Depending on patient population, cardiac sonographers can specialize in adult, pediatric or fetal echo.

Vascular technologists are ultrasound technologists who evaluate blood flow through your blood vessels or vasculature. For example, a vascular technologist could look for blockages that could result in stroke.The measurements and images taken by a vascular technologist can also be helpful when diagnosing cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and diabetes.

Musculoskeletal sonographers use ultrasound to examine muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and so forth.

Here are some reasons why musculoskeletal ultrasound is done: