A neurosonographer performs ultrasounds on the brain and nervous system of their patients of all ages. Also called neurosonology or neuroimaging, neurosonography utilizes specialized beam shapes and frequencies from a Transcranial Doppler (TCD) unlike traditional obstetric and abdominal sonography machines. The TCD machine monitors and measures blood flow within vessels found in the brain, and it is a non-invasive and portable ultrasound option.
The overall goal of neurosonography is to detect or help prevent abnormalities and conditions involving the central nervous system and brain. There may be instances where prevention cannot occur, but neurosonography might determine the extent of damage. However, pertaining to strokes and aneurysms, neurosonography might help to save lives.
Within neurosonography, technician may choose to specialize in a specific area, with the most common being neonatal neurosonography. This type of sonography involves studying and diagnosing nervous systems and neurological disorders found in infants, oftentimes involving premature, low birth weight, or severely malnourished infants. Neonatal neurosonographers may use their equipment to determine if the brain’s or central nervous system’s development was affected. Among the orders neurosonographers may identify, include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome, or encephalitis.
What Disorders do Neurosonographers Identify?
In the body, the central nervous system incorporates the brain, but it also includes the spinal cord and vertebral column. The spinal column includes the lumbar spine, sacrum, cervical spine, thoracic spine, and coccyx. Since the central nervous system as a whole is difficult to treat in general, neurosonographers use their equipment to determine what types of disorders lie within the central nervous system. They may be able to identify different types of brain disorders, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Brain tumors
Neurosonographers may also be able to recognize disorders of the central nervous system and spine, including:
- Spinal stenosis
- Multiple sclerosis
Individuals interested in attending one of the many accredited neurosonography schools have several educational options, but perhaps the most popular choice is the two-year associate degree program. Other options include a certificate program, which varies in length between 12 to 24 months, and a four-year bachelor’s degree program. These neurosonograpny programs are often based in diagnostic medical sonography with a specialization in neuro sonography or neonatal neurosonography. The certificate program is ideal for those who already have a medical background and want to specialize in neurosonography while the bachelor’s degree program is recommended for those pursuing a management role.
The majority of courses found within a neurosonography program will help technicians obtain extensive knowledge about the brain and central nervous system. To work in neurosonography, technicians must understand complex anatomical structures as well as understand how these areas become affected by specific disorders. Examples of neurosonography-based courses may include:
- Medical Terminology
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Neuro Scanning
- Hemodynamic Principles
Employers often require neurosonographers to obtain certification, which is available through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Individuals can obtain the ARDMS certification designation of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS) when the successfully complete the Neurosonology (NE) RDMS credentialing examination. However, as of 2015, ARDMS is discontinuing the NE RDMS in favor of a Pediatric Sonography (PS) specialty. Those who have the NE RDMS can utilize their certification until 2021 or until their 10-year recertification cycle is complete.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2013 the median annual salary for the broader field of diagnostic medical sonographers was $66,400, while the median hourly salary was $31.93. The state with the highest hourly mean was California with $41.61, and its annually mean salary was $86,000. According to Indeed.com the average salary for a neuro sonographer in the United States based on current job postings is $84,000.
Employment Opportunities & Job Outlook
The BLS reported that from 2012 through 2022, employment of diagnostic medical sonographers, which is the broader area of sonography, is expected to increase by 46%. As imaging technology evolves, medical facilities will use sonography equipment to replace more invasive and costly procedures. In addition, as the large baby-boom population ages and remains active later in life the need for assessing specific neurological medical conditions may increase. Nuerosonographers often find employment in general medical and surgical hospitals as well as in physicians’ offices.