The Usefulness of Ultrasounds  

The Usefulness of Ultrasounds  

Feb 7, 2024 | Family Medicine, General, Imaging, Internal Medicine, OB/Gyn, Pediatrics

~ Sonography Beyond Obstetrics ~


In medicine, we have a lot of tools to help our patients figure out what is causing their symptoms. An ultrasound is a diagnostic tool most people have heard of, and they are used often. Of course, we all know about ultrasounds being used for pregnant mothers in finding out if they are having a boy or girl, estimating due dates, etc. But it’s so much more than that!


One of the great things about ultrasound is that it’s quite safe. There isn’t the radiation concern that X-rays, or CT scans have, which is why we can use it in pregnancy, and is often a go-to for concerns with kids as we will discuss below. It’s also noninvasive, which means that although you will get some extra moisturizer with the ultrasound gel and pressure from pushing on the skin, there isn’t much risk either.


How it works – to avoid extra nerdy-ness, I’ll keep it brief. The ultrasound machine uses, as the name would suggest, sound waves that get sent through a handheld probe towards the body. The waves bounce off different material, or in our body, different substances and body parts such as bodily fluids, organs, air, soft tissue, bones and such. The sound waves then head back towards the probe. These returning sound waves are different depending on what they bounced off of, and the computer can help separate those different waves on the screen that you see. Most of the time all it can do is show different shades of white/black/grey, but believe it or not, to the trained eye, it shows a lot more than just snow on a screen!


Common Ultrasounds:


    • ECHO/Echocardiogram – This looks specifically at the heart and how well it is functioning. Healthcare professionals can see if valves are working properly, if you’ve had a prior heart attack or scarring before and can even determine if blood is flowing properly through the heart using Doppler ultrasound.

    • Obstetrics/pregnancy – Looking at the baby’s position, anatomy, or other issues that could be going on with the mother.

    • Abdominal – Used to examine gallbladders and find stones, examine kidneys to look for blockages from stones, examine liver to look at liver disease, and is even used to diagnose appendicitis in children.

    • Vascular – We commonly use ultrasound to help rule out blood clots in the veins and also look at the general blood flow of arteries to see if there is any narrowing or aneurysms.

    • Pelvic – This is more helpful for looking at women’s ovaries and uterus to evaluate for cysts, or other causes of abnormal bleeding.

And so much more!


Some health care providers, myself included, like to use something called a bedside ultrasound (or POCUS, short for Point-of-care Ultrasound) to help with patients in clinic. This can be used to take a quick look at things such as skin infections to see if there is any fluid to drain.  It can also identify if there is any fluid around the lungs without needing an X-ray. However, we may often still order a formal ultrasound, as these tend to be a better-quality machine than point of care ultrasound. The benefit of POCUS is its accessibility in the clinic setting.


Some providers also use ultrasound to help with procedures, such as joint injections, ensuring the injection reaches the intended site. Another procedure often aided by ultrasound is biopsy. For example, in an Ultrasound-guided breast biopsy, ultrasound imaging is used to help guide the instruments to the site of abnormal growth.


We are happy to report that Lakeview Clinic is expanding the availability of ultrasound services in our Waconia Clinic. In addition to bedside ultrasound, we are adding sonography/ultrasound to our imaging department. This will mean added convenience for our patients and additional in-house diagnostic resources for our medical providers. As always, ask your provider if you have any questions about the imaging they order!

Lucas P. Labine

Lucas P. Labine


Dr. Lucas Labine is a Family Medicine provider at Lakeview Clinic. Dr. Labine sees patients at the Norwood and Waconia locations. During his third year of medical school, he had an extended rotation (with the RPAP program) at Lakeview Clinic and immediately loved the staff and patients alike. His interests include caring for the full family, pediatrics, complex care, procedures, family planning, preventative care, point-of-care ultrasound, and overall teaming with patients and forming long lasting relationships. 


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