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An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves (beyond the range of human hearing) to create images of organs and structures inside the body.

The ultrasound waves are delivered by a small handheld sensor that is moved over the surface of the skin. The sensor then picks up the reflected sound waves as they bounce off various organs within the body. A computer, linked to the sensor, turns the reflected sound waves into images. It is a very commonly used test and it is thought to be harmless.

Examples of ultrasound use are:

Monitoring an unborn baby

An ultrasound scan is a routine procedure for pregnant women. It produces a clear three-dimensional (3D) picture of the foetus. Real-time moving images are displayed on a monitor and will:

  • highlight any abnormalities in the baby's development, and
  • indicate whether there is more than one baby.

Highlighting congenital heart disease

Ultrasound is used to examine the structures of the heart, such as the valves, and the auricles and ventricles (heart chambers). This type of ultrasound scan is called an echocardiogram.

Should parents be told their unborn baby’s sex?

Use a roles, rights and responsibilities worksheet for the following roles: the doctor, the mother, the father and the foetus to work through your views on this. Now write out a full answer to the above question explaining your final decision.


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Ultrasound scan of a baby
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Text equivalent: Managing conflicts of interestOften parents’ desires and society’s interest conflict – in some countries evidence indicates that more female than male foetuses are aborted yet this practice is likely to result in an unbalanced population.Text equivalent: Quality of lifeWhat if a foetal ultrasound scan picks up serious abnormalities?

Have you tried Ultrasound teeth cleaning?

Ultrasonic toothbrushes use sound waves (vibrations) to remove plaque, stains and whiten teeth.


For more info, go to

Patient UK
History of Ultrasound