ULTRASOUND: Who Is Qualified to Perform Your Exam?
What is an ultrasound study?
Ultrasound is a high frequency sound wave. It is similar to sonar which a ship uses to detect structures beneath the surface of the water. In an ultrasound study these sound waves are used to make an image of the organs, structure or blood flow inside the body. The words "ultrasound study", "ultrasound exam" and "sonogram" all mean the same thing and the medical personnel you meet may use any of these terms.
Is it the same as an x-ray?
No. X-rays are a form of radiation which can cause chemical changes in the tissues. Ultrasound uses a different form of radiation, called non-ionizing radiation, which does not produce chemical changes in the tissues and is considered to be safe.
Who will perform my ultrasound study?
Your ultrasound study may be performed by a physician or non-physician. There are no laws which require this person to have a certain level of expertise or experience in ultrasound before conducting the study.
What can I do to ensure that my ultrasound study is performed by a certified sonographer?
- Call the place where your study has been scheduled. It may be a hospital or separate imaging center. Ask them for the credentials of the person who will be performing your study. (For example, you may wish to say, "I am scheduled for an OB ultrasound study next Thursday. Would you please tell me who will be doing my study and whether they have a credential in Obstetrics/Gynecology from ARDMS?") Use the chart in this brochure to determine if they have the correct ARDMS credentials and that the credential is in the appropriate study.
- Prior to your ultrasound study, the sonographer should introduce him- or herself to you. Ask again about the credentials they hold. Although many sonographers are trained in x-ray, nursing or other health related fields, this alone does not qualify a person to perform ultrasound studies. They should have credentials from the ARDMS.
- Many sonographers display certificates on the wall. Look for a certificate from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Certified sonographers and vascular technologists may also wear an ARDMS patch or pin on their lab coats. Many sonographers also carry their identification card from the ARDMS which indicates their specialties.
- Sonographers may display training and membership certificates on the wall. Membership and education programs help sonographers keep up with the changes in the field. However, none of these societies or training programs require the individual to have a credential from ARDMS. Look for the ARDMS certificate, patch, pin or identification card.
- You should expect to be asked questions while the study is being performed. These questions will be about your medical history and symptoms. You should be concerned if you are not asked any questions or if you feel there is a lack of communication from the sonographer. The policy of the institution may not allow the sonographer to discuss the images at length with you. You should, however, feel confident that the sonographer was knowledgeable and professional. Your ultrasound exam should be a positive experience.
If there are no laws, is there any way to determine who is qualified to perform my ultrasound study?
Yes, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) provides the internationally recognized certification for non-physicians performing ultrasound studies. These professionals are known as sonographers and vascular technologists. To date, the ARDMS has certified more than 30,000 individuals and has earned a Categroy "A" membership status in the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, which means that their tests meet a defined standard.
The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), under the "Credentials" section of its Scope of Practice for the Diagnostic Sonographers, declares, "the ARDMS credential is the minimum entry level for the profession."
The ARDMS offers credentials in seven different specialty areas of ultrasound. To earn a credential, an applicant must pass two comprehensive exams.
Following is the list of credentials and specialty areas:
||Area of Body
||All abdominal organs, male pelvis, breast, thyroid
||Pregnancy and female pelvis
||Newborn brain and spine
||Blood vessels and blood flow
RDMS = Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
RDCS = Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer
RVT = Registered Vascular Technologist
Glossary of Terms
ARDMS - The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography tests the competency of sonographers and vascular technologists.
Certification Exam - Comprehensive and statistically valid method for testing the knowledge and competency of sonographers. Applicants who pass a physics and instrumentation exam and an ultrasound specialty exam receive a credential.
Credentials - Awarded to individuals in health care to indicate that they have passed certification exams. For example, nurses may carry the RN credential. For sonographers, the credentials are RDMS, RDCS, and RVT.
NCCA - The National Commission for Certifying Agencies sets standards for organizations that offer certification exams.
SDMS - The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography is a membership organization which provides education, information and representation for sonographers and vascular technologists.
Ultrasound Study - A diagnostic medical test, ordered by a physician, which uses ultrasound. Also known as an Ultrasound Exam or Sonogram.
The ARDMS credentials are widely accepted by organizations in the medical community, including:
- American College of Radiology
- American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine
- American Society of Echocardiography
- Canadian Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- International Society for Cardiovascular Surgery
- Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Society for Vascular Surgery
- Society for Vascular Sonography