Ultrasound machines are essential in medical practices, offering detailed imaging that helps understand internal circumstances. However, there is the potential for some biological risks with ultrasound exposure. For those concerned and asking, “what are the biological effects of medical ultrasound?” read on to learn more.
Risks of Ultrasound Exposure
Normal exposure to ultrasound imaging is very safe for both patients and technicians, as there is minimal risk for adverse bioeffects on human tissue, and the technology has a solid safety record. The effect of ultrasound on the human body can differ from person to person, but negative impacts are highly unlikely. However, some still express concern for those who have continuous exposure to ultrasounds – whether as a patient or the technician. We’ll get to the bottom of it today and answer all of your questions.
What Are the Effects of Ultrasound on Biological Tissues and Cells?
For those wondering about the effects of a medical ultrasound on your tissue, you must first understand the two types of ultrasound exposure: thermal and mechanical.
Ultrasound Thermal Effects
The body conserves energy as a default, so all sound energy absorbed from ultrasound imaging converts into heat energy. This causes ultrasound waves to elevate tissue temperatures by up to 1.5°C/2.7°F. In the case of the body’s most sensitive tissues, particularly fetal tissue in pregnant women, this increase in temperature over prolonged periods can have very detrimental consequences.
Ultrasound Mechanical Effects
Mechanical bioeffects refer to ultrasound damage that occurs due to the oscillation of the sound waves that penetrate bodily tissue in a process known as cavitation. Tiny, irregular bubbles of gas in the ultrasound field cause oscillation. The bubbles are unpredictable, and depending on the circumstances, they may expand or deteriorate, affecting nearby tissue.
The mechanical index is an ultrasound feature that identifies cavitation risk from an ultrasound beam. The index will display a specific value on the screen to monitor the risk. For full safety, this value should remain under 1.9.
Ultrasound Bioeffects and Safety
The thermal and mechanical indices measure the risk associated with the ultrasound waves and the bodily tissue. Ultrasound exposure at high levels can cause permanent damage to biological tissues. However, in a healthcare setting, bioeffects from ultrasound diagnostic testing are unlikely because the heat will not surpass physiological thermal temperature.
Ultrasound exposure becomes dangerous when the temperature increase equals or exceeds 41°C for five minutes or more. Monitoring intensity levels is also important, as keeping levels equal to 137 dB or below keeps the body from warming.
The Safety of Ultrasound Machines
What are the biological effects of medical ultrasound? While the possibility of tissue damage is possible due to extended exposure, the risk of biological effects from medical ultrasound is low. Healthcare workers can safely use these devices, ensuring that the ultrasound’s mechanical index works properly to identify any unsafe conditions or risks.