Hazards, risks and safety of diagnostic ultrasound

F A Duck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (SciVal)


The safety of exposure to diagnostic ultrasound is evaluated using a structured approach to risk assessment, based on the acoustic output of present ultrasound scanners. Thermal hazard is described, the magnitude and probability of temperature rise is reviewed, and the severity of harm from any outcome is reviewed. Similar assessments are made separately for acoustic cavitation and gas-body effects, which have previously been considered together. Finally, radiation pressure is considered in a similar manner. In each case. means to minimize the risk are suggested where appropriate. The highest risks are associated with the use of gas-bubble contrast agents. It is concluded that there is a medium risk associated with trans-cranial Doppler use, and that this use of ultrasound deserves more detailed safety review. The risks associated with the current practice of obstetric ultrasound are low. Whilst the severity of radiation pressure as a hazard is low, it is always present. Little is known about any associated cell responses and so the associated risk cannot be evaluated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1338-1348
Number of pages11
JournalMedical Engineering & Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Risk assessment
  • Acoustic cavitation
  • Radiation pressure
  • Gas-body effects
  • Heating
  • Ultrasound safety


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