What is it about?

Ultrasound can be a powerful medical tool for looking inside the human body, but it can do some strange things when applied to liquid-air barriers, like those in the lungs. In fact, it has been shown that ultrasound can even cause bleeding in animal lungs, under certain circumstances. We showed that when one type of ultrasound, called shear wave elastography, is fired through a liquid up at the surface, it can cause fountains of liquid to erupt, spraying drops into the air. We also showed that these fountains do not occur other types of ultrasound, commonly used in medical imaging.

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Why is it important?

Our research had two important findings. First, shear wave elastography ultrasound can cause fountains, even within ultrasound limits that are currently considered safe for diagnostic medicine. This is important because it suggests that current safety limits for diagnostic ultrasound may need to be reconsidered for shear wave elastography. Second, because the fountains do not occur for most common types of diagnostic ultrasound, our work suggests that lung hemorrhage from ultrasound imaging is probably not caused by fountains.


Performing this research was very enjoyable and made me think about the nature of our constantly evolving medical technologies. It is fantastic that ultrasound is growing and developing rapidly for exciting new and improved medicine. But I hope that this work helps people realize that as we develop new tools and technologies, prudent development would lead us to rethink the safety guidelines that govern them.

Brandon Patterson
University of Michigan

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Observation of acoustic fountain generation by diagnostic ultrasound shear wave elastography, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, September 2018, Acoustical Society of America (ASA),
DOI: 10.1121/1.5067441.
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