Breast ultrasound is seamlessly integrated with clinical breast examination, mammography and/ or breast MRI findings, and breast surgery for optimal diagnosis and treatment. Breast ultrasound, also called sonography, is a painless study that uses high-frequency sound waves to obtain images of the breast tissue and abnormalities within the breast. The ultrasound computer converts the sound waves into electrical signals which produce images on a screen. This does not use radiation. High-resolution ultrasound produces clear, detailed images. The images are displayed on a monitor the patient and doctor can see while the ultrasound is being done.
Ultrasound is used to evaluate abnormalities found on breast examination, mammogram or breast MRI. An ultrasound can determine if a lump is solid, a cyst (fluid-filled sac) or a normal structure, each of which would be managed differently. It can tell immediately if a breast infection is an abscess requiring drainage or mastitis requiring antibiotics.
At the Chevy Chase Breast Center, breast ultrasound is performed by the breast surgeon. Breast ultrasound is an indispensable tool for breast surgeons to use in diagnosing and treating breast problems, and is a high-tech extension of the clinical breast exam. The ability of breast surgeons to correlate findings on breast examination with ultrasound images improves diagnostic accuracy and guides treatment decisions. It can be done at the same time as the breast examination so patients don’t have to wait for results. The breast surgeon can be sure the right area in the breast is evaluated when she performs the ultrasound herself. This reduces miscommunications and errors. The real-time, dynamic images on the monitor are higher quality than the static images produced for review when the ultrasound is done at a different time and place. Your breast surgeon can make a diagnostic or treatment plan with you at the same appointment.
Breast ultrasound can be used to guide cyst aspirations and needle biopsies of breast abnormalities. When breast ultrasound is fully integrated with breast surgery by the same doctor it improves accuracy and patient comfort. It can be used to place localizing wires to guide surgical biopsies for masses or lumpectomies for cancers too small to feel; it is much more comfortable for patients to have this done in the operating room while under anesthesia rather than the alternative of having a radiologist insert the localizing wire preoperatively when the patient is awake. Ultrasound can be used for better preoperative planning of breast surgery. Intraoperative ultrasound in conjunction with lumpectomy has been shown to increase the likelihood of removing breast cancers with negative margins while minimizing the amount of surrounding tissue that is removed.
Breast ultrasound is helpful in evaluating women with breast infections to decide whether there is mastitis, in which case antibiotics alone will be effective or if there is an abscess (collection of pus) in which surgery, aspiration or minimally - invasive drainage will also be needed. Breast ultrasound can guide minimally- invasive drainage of breast abscesses to avoid surgery.