What Is a Sonogram vs. an Ultrasound?

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What is the Difference Between a Sonogram vs. Ultrasound?

The terms “sonogram” and “ultrasound” are often used interchangeably. While people will generally understand what’s meant regardless of which word is used, technically they’re not synonyms. In general, an ultrasound is a procedure and a sonogram is the picture it produces. More on the difference between sonogram and ultrasound is provided below.

What is an Ultrasound?

An ultrasound is a simple, radiation-free, non-invasive procedure. Many people are familiar with it from its use during pregnancy to provide doctors with an image of the fetus in a mother’s womb. However, there are many other uses of an ultrasound.

How Does an Ultrasound Work?

An ultrasound uses sound waves to produce a picture of a structure or area inside the body, or to affect tissue in the body. There are multiple types of an ultrasound, including:

  • Elastography is used to determine what is healthy tissue and what is a tumor.
  • Bone sonography helps doctors tell how dense bone is.
  • Doppler ultrasound is used to assess blood flow in heart and blood vessels.
  • Therapeutic ultrasound can break up or heat tissue as a form of treatment.
  • High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is used to help the body eliminate abnormal tissue.

Often, an ultrasound is used on the skin surface. However, in some cases, a device is inserted into a body opening in order to capture a better image. Examples include:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound
  • Transrectal ultrasound
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram

What is an Ultrasound Used For?

Ultrasounds can be used in many ways. One area where they’re useful is in diagnostics. The images captured using ultrasound technology help doctors diagnose conditions affecting soft tissues and organs like the kidneys, ovaries, liver, and eyes. In medical procedures, ultrasounds can be used to help guide a doctor such as when they’re performing a needle biopsy. Ultrasounds can also be used therapeutically to help treat soft tissue injuries.

For more information on prenatal ultrasounds, read our “Expectant Mothers: Knowing When To Get An Ultrasound” blog post.

What is a Sonogram?

A sonogram is the image produced by an ultrasound procedure. The term sonogram loosely translates as “sound writing,” since the sound waves effectively “write” the image that’s produced. So, when someone asks, “What is a sonogram used for?” the answer is actually that an ultrasound is performed in order to produce a sonogram, and that image can be used for many purposes as noted above.

Reading the sonogram from a prenatal ultrasound is easy if you know what to look for. For example, black areas indicate amniotic fluid, shades of gray represent soft tissue and solid colors are hard tissue. With that in mind, identifying things like the baby’s head or legs can help you get oriented.