Without the use of physics in the medical field today, diagnosis of problems would be challenging, to say the least. The world of medical imaging in particular has benefited greatly from the use of physics.
Ultrasound is sound waves that have a frequency too high for humans to hear. With a shorter wavelength than audible sound, these waves can be directed into a narrow beam that is used in imaging soft tissues (Farr and Allisy-Roberts 183). As with audible sound waves, ultrasound waves must have a medium in which to travel and are subject to interference. In addition, much like light rays, they can be reflected, refracted, and focused (Farr and Allisy-Roberts 186).
In general, ultrasound waves produced by an instrument called a transducer are sent into a patient. Some of the waves are absorbed, but the other portion of these waves are reflected when tissue and organ boundaries are encountered. The echoes produced by the reflected waves are then picked up by the transducer and translated in a visible picture often referred to as an ultrasound (Kremkau 2). In the paragraphs that follow, the physics of how the transducer functions, what the ultrasound waves do, and how the image is formed will be explained.
A ¡§transducer¡¨ is a mechanism that changes one form of energy to another form. A toaster is a transducer that turns electricity into heat; a loudspeaker is a transducer that changes electricity into sound (Bushong and Archer 51). Likewise, an ultrasound transducer changes electric voltage into ultrasound waves, and vice versa. This is possible because of the principle of piezoelectricity, which states that ¡§some materials (ceramics, quartz, and others) produce a vo...
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... the summation of the individual signals stored in the image processor, with the spatial position and direction of the ultrasound beam dictating where the dots appear on the display (Bushong and Archer 82).
The medical imaging technology of ultrasounds is founded on the world of physics. As we understand more and more about waves and how they function, ultrasound imaging capabilities expand, allowing for the increasingly accurate diagnosis of medical problems.
Bushong, Stewart C. and Benjamin R. Archer. Diagnostic Ultrasound: Physcis, Biology, and Instrumentation. St. Louis: Mosby-Year Book, Inc., 1991.
Farr, R. F. and P. J. Allisy-Roberts. Physics for Medical Imaging. London: W. B. Saunders Company, Ltd., 1997.
Kremkau, Frederick W. Diagnostic Ultrasound: Principles and Instruments. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders Company, 2002.
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