A sonographer performs specialised diagnostic examinations using high frequency ultrasound (sonography). People may require ultrasound scans for a range of conditions from pregnancy to more complex health conditions as prescribed by their health practitioner.
Where do sonographers practice?
Sonographers work across a range of health settings including public and private hospitals, clinics and community health centres.
When should I see a sonographer?
Patients are referred to a sonography service after consultation with their health practitioner to assist in the diagnosis of a wide number of potential health issues.
The sonographer works with a reporting physician, such as a radiologist or other qualified specialist physician, who has responsibility for supervising the examination, reading and interpreting the results and providing the final report to the referring practitioner.
What services do sonographers provide?
Sonography can be used to examine many parts of the body. This makes it very useful for diagnosing, and guiding management for a range of medical conditions.
Some examples of the types of sonography and what they are used to investigate include:
- Abdomen and chest – organs in the body including lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen and more
- Breasts – examination of the breast tissue including breast lumps
- Cardiac – chambers, muscle, valves, blood vessels and blood flow of the heart and related structures
- Gynaecological – female reproductive system
- Musculoskeletal – muscles, tendons, joints
- Obstetric – fetus, cervix and placenta during pregnancy
- Paediatric – specific applications of ultrasound in babies and children
- Superficial parts – male reproductive system; neck and thyroid
- Vascular – blood vessels throughout the body
Ultrasound imaging is highly operator-dependent, and the outcome of a sonographic examination is dependent on the medical knowledge as well as the technical skills of the sonographer. During an ultrasound examination a sonographer will make real-time decisions to:
- Tailor the examination based on referral information, clinical context, ultrasound findings and the breadth of investigation required
- Selectively record anatomical images and physiological information that will form the basis of the clinical diagnosis
As well as being used for diagnosis, sonography can also be used to guide medical interventions. Examples of this include fine needle tissue biopsy such as taking samples of breast tissue to test for cancer, or injecting medication into joints and soft tissue such as cortisone injections, or to guide the minimally invasive implantation of heart valves.
Other health professionals such as doctors, nurses, midwives and physiotherapists may also use ultrasound as part of their diagnostic practice.
How are sonographers qualified?
In order to practise, sonographers must meet the following requirements:
- Complete a recognised post graduate qualification
- Complete clinical training of up to 2,200 hours or three days per week over two years
- Complete continuing professional development
- Accredited by the Australian Sonographer Accreditation Registry (ASAR) in order to perform clinical ultrasound examinations eligible for Medicare rebates to meet the Australian Government’s Diagnostic Imaging Accreditation Scheme standards and Medicare legislation (in Australia), or
- Registered with Annual Practicing Certificate with the Medical Radiation Technologists Board (MRTB) (in New Zealand)
For more detailed information about sonography, visit the Australasian Sonographers Association website www.sonographers.org or the Australian Sonographer Accreditation Registry website.
Find a practitioner
Sonography services can be found by searching the National Health Services Directory.