7 Types of Sonographers

Updated March 10, 2023

Sonographers are medical professionals who provide ultrasonic imaging services in health care facilities. Many people choose to pursue a career in sonography because it can offer rewarding work experiences and competitive pay. There are also several different types of sonographers so there are various career paths to explore and choose from. In this article, we define what a sonographer is and learn about seven types of specializations that sonographers can pursue with their job duties and work environments.

Related: FAQ: Your Guide to Sonography as a Career

What is a sonographer?

A sonographer is a professional in the health care industry who uses ultrasonic imaging equipment to learn about and diagnose medical conditions in patients. Some sonographers are also called ultrasound technicians since much of their job involves operating ultrasound equipment. Sonographers can also prepare patients for tests by offering them safety gear, maintain communication with patients during testing and take diagnostic images of different internal parts of the body.

Sonographers usually work in hospitals or medical diagnostic testing centers but they can also work at clinics, private practices or other medical facilities that offer ultrasonic imaging.

Read more: Learn About Being a Sonographer

7 different types of sonographers

Here are seven types of sonographers and some information about what they do:

1. Diagnostic medical sonographer

A diagnostic medical sonographer works with physicians to diagnose medical conditions in patients who are experiencing symptoms that need internal imaging to assess. Diagnostic medical sonographers are also sometimes referred to as ultrasound technicians as they use ultrasound equipment to take medical imaging. Some common job duties for diagnostic medical sonographers include explaining each step of the imaging process to patients, operating ultrasound machines and identifying abnormalities in images they take.

These sonographers typically work in hospitals and medical diagnostic testing centers. They also typically report directly to a doctor or physician to share the images they take and to discuss any abnormalities they might notice.

Read more: Guide To Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

2. Diagnostic cardiovascular sonographer

Diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers use sonography to help doctors diagnose medical conditions that can affect the heart and cardiovascular system. Some professionals also refer to diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers as cardiac sonographers or echocardiographers because they often use echocardiograms to take diagnostic images of patients' internal systems. When they take diagnostic images, diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers often use both 2D and 3D images of the heart to examine its structure and identify any irregularities like blockages or deterioration. Physicians can then use this information to diagnose conditions and prescribe treatment.

Most diagnostic cardiovascular sonographers work in hospitals but they can also work in doctor's offices or clinics that have cardiac specialists on staff.

Related: How To Become a Cardiac Sonographer

3. Abdominal sonographer

Abdominal sonographers use sonography equipment to take diagnostic images of internal organs that exist inside the abdomen. Abdominal sonographers can work in hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities that treat patients who experience conditions that affect their abdominal regions. Because they focus specifically on the abdomen, most abdominal sonographers undergo extensive training in the different parts of abdominal systems so they can effectively help physicians diagnose medical conditions within them. While taking images of patients' abdominal areas, abdominal sonographers can look for abnormalities such as tumors, tissue damage or stones.

Here are some of the areas that an abdominal sonographer might take images of:

  • Liver

  • Kidneys

  • Pancreas

  • Gallbladder

  • Spleen

  • Abdominal aorta

4. Obstetric sonographer

Obstetric sonographers specialize in taking images of fetuses during pregnancy. When they take sonograms, obstetric sonographers can evaluate the growth of a fetus and keep track of its development which can help physicians develop health plans for mothers to implement throughout pregnancy. Obstetric sonographers can also take images of the uterus to determine whether someone is pregnant and identify a potential due date for the baby's arrival. Obstetric sonographers most commonly work in hospitals and facilities that have maternity wards, but they can also find jobs in outpatient care centers, private practices and medical and diagnostic laboratories.

Read more: Obstetric Sonographer Careers: Skills, Schooling and Credentials

5. Musculoskeletal sonographer

A musculoskeletal sonographer takes diagnostic images of muscles and parts of the skeletal system. This can include tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves that exist throughout a patient's body. Musculoskeletal sonographers often use the images they take to identify medical conditions that can affect patients' mobility through their joints, muscles and bones. Many medical conditions that musculoskeletal sonographers focus on diagnosing can occur from injury or accidents, so musculoskeletal sonographers frequently work in hospitals, emergency rooms and other medical facilities that treat patients experiencing traumatic injuries. Here are a few conditions that musculoskeletal sonographers can look for during their jobs:

  • Broken bones

  • Sprains

  • Trapped nerves or objects

  • Inflammation

  • Strains

  • Tears

  • Arthritis

  • Hernias

  • Cysts

6. Breast sonographer

Breast sonographers specialize in taking diagnostic images of the breast and surrounding tissue after a patient receives an abnormal mammogram or examination. Their job typically involves imaging breasts, tissue and lymph nodes in order to identify any irregularities that might signify a developing medical condition. Some abnormalities that breast sonographers often look for in patients include lumps, cysts and tumors. Breast sonographers can also help physicians and specialists when diagnosing cancer as the images they take can show areas that might indicate the potential for cancerous growth.

Because their work focuses primarily on imaging breasts, breast sonographers can usually find employment at hospitals, oncology centers or women's health centers.

7. Neurosonology sonographer

A neurosonolgy sonographer uses specialized equipment other than ultrasounds and sonograms to take diagnostic images of the brain. The tool that neurosonology sonographers use is called the transcranial doppler (TCD) machine and it allows these sonographers to take internal images of the brain and help physicians to diagnose medical conditions like cerebral palsy, encephalitis and Down syndrome. Nuersonology sonographers can also use a TCD machine to take images of patients' spinal columns and nervous systems to look for irregularities such as strokes, epilepsy, aneurysms and brain tumors.

Due to the specialized equipment their job requires, neurosonology sonographers most often work in hospitals and diagnostic testing centers that have TCD machines.

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