What Does Echogenic Mean On Ultrasound?

Ultrasound uses sound waves to allow us to look inside the body.  An instrument called a transducer is placed on the body by the technologist doing the ultrasound exam.  The sound waves that are formed pass into the body are then are reflected back to the transducer.  This gives us a picture of the inside of the body.

Echogenicity is a descriptive term used to describe what we see.  This allows a written report to basically paint a picture of what we are seeing inside the body.  The term itself does not indicate a specific diagnosis.

What is echogenicity?

Echogenicity is a descriptive term used to describe the picture that the reflected ultrasound waves form.  Each organ or body tissue has an expected echogenicity when it is not diseased.  Echogenicity can be used to compare an organ to its normal state or to another tissue. Echogenicity can also be used to describe an abnormality on ultrasound.

What is hyperechoic on ultrasound?

This is when the tissue forms a whiter than normal picture.  This can also be used to describe an abnormality that is whiter than the the tissue it is in.

For example, the liver has a hyperechoic mass.  This means that the mass in the liver is whiter than the normal liver.

Another example can be a hyperechoic liver.  This means that the ultrasound forms a picture of the liver which is whiter than usual.  This can mean there is fatty infiltration of the liver.

What is hypoechoic on ultrasound?

This means that the tissue is darker than the normal expected tissue.  This can also mean that the abnormality is darker than the tissue it is in.

For example, a hypoechoic mass in the kidney means the mass is darker than the kidney it’s in.

Another example would be a hypoechoic area in an organ like the spleen in the setting of trauma.  This can mean there is injury to the spleen.

What is isoechoic on ultrasound?

This means the tissue or abnormality has the same echogenicity as another tissue.  For example, an isoechoic mass in the liver has the same echogenicity as the liver.

Does echogenicity tell us what the problem or disease is?

A normal echogenicity of tissues or organs often means there is no disease.  However, ultrasound has limitations in what it can detect.

An abnormal echogenicity can mean many different things depending on the appearance.  For example, there can be a mass in the liver which has different echogenicity than the normal liver.  The mass can be benign or cancerous.

An entire organ can have an abnormal echogenicity.   When the echogenicity is increased, the liver may have fatty infiltration.

What is an echogenic focus or echogenic foci?

These are smaller abnormal areas in a body tissue or organ which stand out from the background on ultrasound.  This terminology does not tell us about the problem or disease by itself. It’s a descriptive term.

Should you be worried when the term echogenicity is used in your ultrasound report?

No.  It is simply a descriptive term used to describe an organ or abnormality.  The radiologist interpreting the ultrasound will try to provide a diagnosis and whether further testing is needed in the report.

Echogenic meaning on ultrasound: summary

Echogenic on ultrasound is a descriptive term and does not provide a specific diagnosis.  Echogenic can describe normal tissue or organs.  The term can also be used to describe abnormalities, such as a mass in an organ.    We often use the term echogenic when comparing to other tissues.   The radiologist interpreting the ultrasound may use the term echogenic but will often try to provide a more specific diagnosis to guide treatment.




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