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Issue 468, 4 June 2001

Distinguishing industry and medicine

Malcolm Povey
Procter Food Science Institute

I don't want to get into a debate in the reporter but I think we have to distinguish between medical and industrial applications of ultrasound.

In industrial process measurement, as Brian pointed out, non-invasive has a special meaning - i.e. that the transducer does not 'invade' the process. For example, Ultrasound Doppler flow metering can operate using probes which strap on to a pipe and therefore the pipe work does not require altering - this is regarded as non-invasive. If a probe has to be introduced into the pipework but nevertheless does not need to intrude into the fluid in the pipe, this is called non-intrusive. Another example would be non-contact laser generation and detection of ultrasound. Again following Brian, in industrial applications, radiation is used as a short hand for ionising-radiation, and as such attracts the attention of legislation.

On the contrary, ultrasound does not fall into this category. I think Andrew has a point about the potentially harmful effects of medical ultrasound scanning, this is an area in which research is needed but where the manufacturers of ultrasound scanners have no desire for such research to be publicly done.

See also:

"Ultrasound in pregnancy: What can it tell you?" Ultrasound is a safe way of determining what's going on with your unborn baby.

"What is ultrasonography?" Learn all about ultrasonography -- what it is, how it works and when it's used.

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