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What Are the Different Types of Sonograms?

By Ruth Coleman ; Updated June 13, 2017

A sonogram is an image of the organs inside of the human body. It is also called an ultrasound, and the image is created by a machine that uses high frequency or ultrasonic waves. It does not use radiation. When the machine sends the sound waves, they bounce off structures inside of the body and are collected by a computer, which creates the image. There are several different types of sonograms.


An echocardiogram is a sonogram of the heart. It is a fundamental part of the evaluation of the heart for it shows its function and structure, says Anthony DeMaria, M.D., in “Hurst’s the Heart.” In a transthoracic echocardiogram, or a TTE, the instrument that sends the sound waves is placed on the ribs. It is placed inside the esophagus in a TEE, or transesophageal echocardiogram. The sonogram can detect abnormalities in the valves of the heart or in the heart muscle. It can also see how well the heart is pumping blood.

Abdominal Ultrasound

This ultrasound shows images of the organs inside the abdomen, including the spleen, liver, kidneys, gallbladder and pancreas. Physicians prefer this imaging study for children and for women who can have children because, unlike an abdominal X-ray, it does not use radiation, explains Frederick Makrauer, M.D., in “Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Gastroenterology, Hepatology, & Endoscopy.” This type of sonogram evaluates gallstones, kidney stones, pancreatitis, appendicitis, liver cancer and abdominal aortic aneurysms. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, while appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix. An aneurysm is a bulge resulting from weakness in the arterial wall.

Duplex Ultrasound

This type of sonogram shows the blood flow in a major artery or vein in the neck, abdomen, arms and legs. It checks on the direction of the blood flow and shows if there are any obstructions to the normal flow of blood. A physician may order this study to see if a person has deep venous thrombosis, or DVT. In this disorder, people have a blood clot in a large vein in a leg or pelvis. The blood clot can travel throughout the body, causing severe problems. The duplex ultrasound is also used to detect any atherosclerosis in the legs or carotid arteries supplying the brain.

Obstetric Sonogram

Sonography is one of the main achievements in the care of a fetus and its mother, notes F. Gary Cunningham, M.D., in “Williams Obstetrics.” Physicians have used obstetric sonograms for decades without any fetal risks, and it is now an indispensable part of prenatal care. The sonogram checks on the growth of the fetus, the age, any abnormalities in the fetus or placenta, the presence of multiple fetuses, and the amount of amniotic fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus. It can even see the movement of the heart when the embryo is only 5 mm long.

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