What Every Clinician Needs to Know About Basic Science in Ultrasound
March 8, 2012
Diagnostic ultrasound would not exist without basic science, the foundation for 3 critical components of ultrasound technology according to Marvin Ziskin, MD, director at the Center of Biomedical Physics at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Determining safety, advancing technology, and evaluating quality assurance are all vital to improving patient care.

Basic scientists research the mechanical and thermal effects of sound on tissue. They have developed mechanisms for users to assess whether they are using ultrasound safely by:
  • Studying the basic interactions of ultrasound and the body;

  • Determining the effects of ultrasound on tissue;

  • Determining thresholds of damage; and

  • Helping establish safe limits for clinical exposures.

Thanks to basic scientists, we have transducers that are able to emit pulses of sound and receive echoes from each pulse hitting a structure and bouncing back. Scientists and engineers have created machines that use the echoes to analyze the structures reflecting the sound and have applied scientific principles to gauge the velocity and direction of the movement of blood flow and moving structures. They have even developed ways of checking the performance of those machines and transducers. They contribute to advancing technology by:
  • Developing needed instrumentation for clinical practice; and

  • Discovering new methodology and associated technology for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Diagnostic ultrasound is an instrumentation-dependent technology. As new technologies are developed, clinicians are able to provide improved patient diagnosis. This is due to the evaluation of quality assurance from basic scientists through:

  • Providing knowledgeable techniques for preventive maintenance of clinical instruments;

  • Making sure that instruments are functioning properly; and

  • Keeping in touch with clinicians and providing them with appropriate instruments to satisfy their needs for improved patient care.
Diagnostic ultrasound technology started with a single line of information displayed on an oscilloscope and has expanded to real-time displays, Doppler ultrasound, harmonics, therapeutic ultrasound, and beyond. Many of the advances in this technology are due to the contributions of basic scientists.


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