Ultrasound imaging has been used clinically as an effective diagnostic tool for more than 30 years.
In spite of millions of patient examinations, there is no verified documented evidence of adverse
effects in patients caused by exposure to ultrasound. Although the apparent safety of clinical
diagnostic ultrasound is comforting, laboratory studies clearly show that ultrasound is capable of
producing serious biological damage if the intensity is sufficiently high. The damage can result from
both “thermal” and “non-thermal” mechanisms. In the use of ultrasound for diagnosis, the
physician must always be cognizant of the “benefit/risk” ratio for each examination. This article
primarily discusses concerns about the risk. As with any diagnostic modality, there is the possibility
of patient harm if ultrasound is overused or underused. Ultimately, the greatest safeguard for
patient safety resides in the knowledge and skill possessed by physicians and ultrasonographers. By
far, “misdiagnosis” is more dangerous than any harm that can result from the ultrasound.