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Harmonic Imaging vs. Traditional Ultrasound

As diagnostic imaging technology advances, variations on the traditional ultrasound are gaining ground in a variety of clinical specialties. For many patients, their concept of ultrasound originates with obstetrics or abdominal exams for surveying gall bladder and liver function. Today, harmonic imaging is the primary diagnostic approach for a wide range of clinical applications.

Understanding harmonic imaging

Before you can understand the benefits of harmonic imaging, it’s helpful to know exactly what it is. Harmonic imaging uses nonlinear ultrasound propagation to achieve a clearer image of internal tissues and organs.

This type of imaging uses two different kinds of ultrasound waves: high- and low-pressure. High-pressure waves travel faster than low-pressure waves. This creates distortion in the shape of the combined wave, and as the waveform changes, it generates harmonics within the targeted tissue. Waves increase to an optimal depth for ultrasound images, but once the harmonics reach maximum intensity, their efficacy deteriorates.

Ultimately, this produces higher-quality images than traditional ultrasound technology, improving results in historically difficult imaging areas, such as abdominal scanning. High-quality images of tissue deep within the body provide better insight into this especially dense diagnostic area. Because the abdominal cavity is packed with multiple organs and tissues, harmonic imaging allows medical professionals to view abdominal anatomy with more detail and nuance.

Key benefits of harmonic imaging

Traditional ultrasound offers many benefits, which is why it’s still in use today. In many cases, it’s all physicians need to diagnose certain issues, but when healthcare providers require more nuanced, in-depth diagnostics, harmonic imaging provides enhanced insight.

When harmonic imaging is used in an ultrasound, the ultrasonic pulse is altered as it travels through tissue in a nonlinear manner. This means the peaks in the pulse waveform move faster than the valleys, so the transmission is faster in dense tissue regions. Harmonic technology measures the acoustic signal distortion in the tissue against the pulse’s range versus the distance it traveled. This shows what’s going on in the body, whether a clinician is monitoring a pregnancy or other internal condition.

Key benefits of harmonic imaging include:

  • Decreased reverberation and artifacts
  • Increased signal-to-noise ratio
  • Increased resolution overall
  • Higher-resolution images in dense diagnostic areas

Where traditional ultrasound technology can provide a general look into the body, harmonic imaging offers greater detail in dense tissue.

Clearer imaging powers better diagnoses

Harmonic ultrasound offers significantly clearer imaging, which translates into more accurate diagnoses. While harmonic imaging can be used for any number of conditions, it is particularly useful for abdominal ultrasounds.

This is especially important when diagnosing abdominal conditions consistent with high patient body mass index (BMI). With harmonic imaging, healthcare providers observing patients with a BMI of 30 or more can clearly see lesions. This allows for greater diagnostic confidence for many conditions, including cancer, hepatitis C-related disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, pancreatic issues, and gallstones. Because affected organs may be deeper within dense tissue, the clarity of harmonic imaging is a significant advantage.

The key benefits of harmonic imaging center around image clarity. Improved resolution offers clearer images, even in dense tissue, while decreased noise reduces artifacts. This is particularly useful when depicting and diagnosing cystic lesions, or finding echogenic tissues containing fat, calcium, and air. In fact, one study recommends using harmonic imaging over traditional ultrasound in most cases.

For diagnostic confidence, the choice is clear

The clarity and accuracy of harmonic imaging provide physicians with much-needed diagnostic confidence when visualizing anomalies through dense tissue. For diagnosing chronic and life-threatening abdominal conditions, harmonic imaging gives physicians the tools they need to help patients at high risk for these ailments. It’s a minimally invasive method for maximizing clinical understanding of the problem — and defining the best course of treatment.

Learn more about harmonic imaging and other revolutions in ultrasound technology at

September 8, 2022 Uncategorized