Sonography specialties

The diagnostic medical sonographer is a health care professional who performs diagnostic ultrasound examinations under a physician’s supervision.

Sonographers are required to integrate medical knowledge of cross-sectional and three-dimensional anatomy, physiology, pathology and ultrasound physics to imaging patients in the clinical setting. Sonographers work within the framework of an examination protocol, where they must exercise judgment to tailor each examination to the individual patient’s needs and answer the clinical questions.

The interaction between ultrasound and a patient’s body tissues requires the constant adjustment of techniques and procedures during the course of the examination. Therefore, the sonographer must be able to understand the interaction between ultrasound physics, anatomy, pathology and equipment manipulation to produce diagnostic medical images that provide comprehensive information about the patient’s specific pathology.

Most sonographers work in hospital-based radiology departments performing abdominal, pelvic and vascular examinations or in cardiology (i.e., echocardiography) departments performing cardiac and vascular examinations in emergency, operating room, inpatient and outpatient situations. However, vascular surgery departments and obstetric departments can also employ sonographers who perform specialized ultrasound examinations tailored to follow specific protocols needed in those specialties. Many sonographers prefer to work in outpatient clinics and mobile medical imaging services where ultrasound examinations are performed on a non-emergency basis. Non-clinical positions are available with medical imaging equipment manufacturers who employ sonographers to test ultrasound equipment and function as application specialists to teach new technologies to clinical sonographers.

It is the goal of the UW Hospitals and Clinics School of Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program to produce highly qualified sonographers who function in a competent fashion in meeting the health care needs of the patient. Graduates of the program will be able to use the mechanical equipment used by ultrasound departments for the production of high quality diagnostic sonograms.

The School of Diagnostic Medical Sonography offers professional training in two specializations. Both programs include training in vascular ultrasound.

Abdominal Sonography-Extended/Obstetrics and Gynecology Sonography/Vascular Sonography

The general diagnostic medical sonography option provides didactic and clinical instruction in: 

  • Abdomen
  • Obstetric
  • Gynecological
  • Vascular

The general sonography curriculum covers ultrasound imaging in obstetrics and gynecology, evaluation of the abdomen, thyroid, scrotum, prostate and neurosonography. The vascular section includes evaluation of the major blood vessels of the neck, brain, abdomen and extremities. In addition to attending formal classes, students often have an opportunity to attend physician lectures and conferences on ultrasound-related topics.

Adult Cardiac Sonography/Vascular Sonography

The echocardiography, or cardiac ultrasound, option provides didactic and clinical instruction in:

  • Ultrasound of the adult cardiovascular systems
  • Ultrasound of pediatric cardiovascular systems
  • Vascular technology

The echocardiography curriculum covers ultrasound imaging of the heart in a variety of different ways including transesophageal, transthoracic and introduction to stress echocardiograms on both adult and pediatric patient populations. Students are also exposed to the basic principles of fetal echocardiography as these patients tend to be followed by echocardiographers as neonates. In addition to attending formal classes, students often have an opportunity to attend physician lectures, cardiology conferences and interesting case readout sessions conducted by cardiologists.