Ultrasound is an amazing technology that has changed the healthcare landscape, particularly in maternity care. Ultrasound gel is an important part of making that technology work.
What is Ultrasound Gel?
Ultrasound gel is a viscous, slightly sticky gel made primarily of propylene glycol and water. It acts as a conductive medium between the probe or transducer of an ultrasound machine (the part that makes contact with your body) and the skin.
How Does Ultrasound Gel Work and Why Do You Need It?
Ultrasound technology is similar to sonar. It uses sound waves to create a picture of something that can’t be seen with the naked human eye. In the case of sonar, this means underwater objects; with ultrasound, this means parts of the human body that are hidden beneath the skin.
The ultrasound probe emits pulses of high-frequency sound far out of the range of human hearing. These sound pulses bounce off structures within the body — or off the baby, in the case of prenatal ultrasound exams — and create a picture that can be viewed on a computer screen.
In order for the sound waves to penetrate the body, there must be excellent contact between the probe and the skin. Ultrasound doesn’t travel well through the air, and even tiny pockets of air can block ultrasound waves.
Ultrasound gel, with its high water content, conducts sound well. In addition, it works as a sort of connector. It bridges the gap between the ultrasound probe and the skin, eliminating even the tiniest air pockets that might form around hairs or dry skin. It also acts as a lubricant, allowing the probe to slide smoothly across the skin without the possibility of static.
Other Uses for Ultrasound
In addition to imaging, ultrasound is sometimes used by physical therapists, occupational therapists, and chiropractors to relieve pain and promote the healing of injured tissue. Consumer-grade home ultrasound machines have become increasingly popular for these purposes. And thanks to the COVID-19 lockdowns, app-enabled ultrasound probes that connect to your phone and relay images to your doctor may soon be a reality for expectant mothers.
What to Look for in an Ultrasound Gel
Ultrasound gel’s primary use is as a conductor and lubricant. It’s therefore important that it be thick enough not to run once applied to the body, but not so sticky that the probe doesn’t glide easily.
Different areas and purposes may require different viscosity gels, too, for example:
- Multi-purpose gels are medium viscosity and suitable for both imaging and therapeutic ultrasound.
- Low-viscosity gels will spread very thinly yet will not dry out or run. Suitable for both imaging and therapeutic uses where less mess is important.
- High-viscosity gels are the thickest option and are suitable for prolonged therapeutic applications.
- Ultrasound lotions are medium-viscosity and absorb into the skin afterward.
Ultrasound gel is available in clear and colored options, but most tinted gels are non-staining and won’t ruin clothing.
As home ultrasound becomes more common, so does having access to ultrasound gel. Visit SimplyMedical today for your ultrasound needs.