What is ultrasonography?

In ultrasonography, or ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, are transmitted through body tissues. The echoes are recorded and transformed into video or photographic images.

Ultrasound images help in the diagnosis of a wide range of diseases and conditions. The idea for ultrasonography came from sonar technology, which makes use of sound waves to detect underwater objects.

This test is used to create images of soft tissue structures, such as the gall bladder, liver, heart, kidney, female reproductive organs—and even of babies still in the womb. Ultrasound can also detect blockages in the blood vessels.

It cannot be used to image bones because they are too dense to penetrate. In addition, the intestinal tract and normal lung tissue are not easily identified with ultrasound because air or gas interfere with the production of ultrasound images.

Ultrasound may be used with other diagnostic procedures or by itself.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/26/2019.


  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ultrasound Exams. Accessed 6/27/2019.
  • American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. AIUM Practice Parameters. Accessed 6/27/2019.
  • RadiologyInfo.org (developed jointly by Radiological Society of America and American College of Radiology). Pelvic Ultrasound. Accessed 6/27/2019.

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