• University of Twente logo

Ultrasound Imaging: What Is Inside?

What is an ultrasound scan, and how do they work? Discover the science of ultrasound and understand its clinical uses.

24,415 enrolled on this course

Photograph of an ultrasound scan taking place
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Discover how ultrasound imaging works

With this ultrasound imaging course, you’ll explore some of the main principles behind this fascinating technology. Starting with an ultrasound definition and working your way through the science behind the process, you’ll learn about the clinical applications of an ultrasound scan.

Whether you’re simply curious about how the process works, considering sonographer training, or hoping to improve your existing clinical knowledge, this is the course for you.

Learn about the uses of ultrasound

How does ultrasound imaging work? And what is an ultrasound scan? You’ll explore these questions and more as you progress through the course syllabus.

You’ll also examine the current developments in technology, and the new possibilities in ultrasound imaging are arising that may improve diagnostics.

Understand ultrasound imaging from three perspectives

Ultrasound can only be correctly performed and improved when users have a profound knowledge of the underlying technology. With that in mind, this free online course is based on three major perspectives:

  1. Medical perspective: In Week 1 we will examine the versatile use of ultrasound imaging for medical purposes.
  2. Technical perspective: In Weeks 2 to 4 we will explain the underlying technology of ultrasound imaging.
  3. Technical medical perspective: In Weeks 5 and 6 we will apply your newly acquired technical background knowledge of ultrasound to make better images.

Develop your clinical knowledge and patient care

Whether you’re wondering how to learn ultrasound or how to become a sonographer, this course can provide some of the foundations you’ll need. Once completed, you’ll have a good understanding of the technology of ultrasound imaging, and you can apply this knowledge in examples of ultrasound use in the clinic.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds SPEAKER: Ultrasound is a quick and cheap way to make images from the interior of the human body. There is a lot of applications, ranging from monitoring pregnancies to measuring the speed of our blood. Technology for medical application is the key area of research and education at the Department of Technical Medicine at the University of Twente. Medical treatments benefit greatly if you have a good understanding of how modern medical technology truly works. Ultrasound is one of those technologies. In this course, you will learn what ultrasound imaging is. You’ll get a thorough understanding of this technology, and this will allow you to make the best possible image.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds The course will present three perspectives to you, the medical perspective, the technological perspective, and technical medical perspective. First, we present examples from medical domains like radiology, obstetrics, and physiotherapy. You’ll see their daily experiences with ultrasound and some of the limitations that they encounter. Next we’ll cover the technical background. How can sound be used to make images, and how can a machine like this tell the difference between soft tissue and bone? We will start with very basics, beginning with what sound actually is, and what happens when it is sent into the body. And we will present topics like Doppler, artefacts, three-dimensional ultrasound, and knobology. Finally we will integrate the medical and technological perspective.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds Understanding both medicine and technology can help you to make better images, better diagnoses, and to improve therapies. This is the philosophy of the technical medicine programme at the University of Twente. Here students are prepared for a new profession in Dutch health care, the technical physician. I invite you to join this course. I hope you will be as enthusiastic as we are about this fascinating and exciting technology that is ultrasound.


  • Week 1

    Ultrasound in medical practice

    • Welcome to Week one

      Meet the team behind this course and see the first video by our lead educator Wiendelt Steenbergen. Introduce yourself and kick off with the first quiz! On the left you see a typical US image. Do you recognise anything?

    • Case I - The Intensive Care

      You will see how intensive care (IC) physician Harold Hom uses ultrasound in the IC department. Can you help him using ultrasound to guide catheter insertion in patients?

    • Case II - The Musculoskeletal System

      Physiotherapist Anne van Maarseveen tells about her experiences with ultrasound in her daily practice at the University of Twente. In the case, she examines the patella tendon. Can you assist her in interpreting the results?

    • Case III - The Trauma Patient

      Learn how a typical ultrasound examination of the abdomen is performed. Radiologist Jurgen Fütterer presents the case of a trauma patient. Do you know how we should look at the ultrasound images of the patient?

    • Case IV - Obstetrics

      A widely known use of ultrasound is found in obstetrics. Sonographer Patricia Koster is a specialist in obstetric ultrasound. Can you support her in assessing the health of the foetus?

    • Case V - Blood vessels

      Vascular surgeon Michel Reijnen explains his interest in ultrasound imaging. See how ultrasound is deployed in the vascular lab. Do you know how the Doppler results should be interpreted?

    • End of week summary

      The key points of this week are summarised in this activity. Your (newly acquired) clinical insights in ultrasound imaging will be assessed in the first test of the course.

  • Week 2

    The technology behind ultrasound - Part one

    • Welcome to Week two

      Introduction to Week 2, in which we explore the basic physics of (ultra)sound. Start the journey with a small quiz to see what you already know!

    • What is sound?

      The basic principles of (ultra)sound formation will be explained in this activity.

    • How do we create sound?

      In this activity, we explain how ultrasound is created that can be useful in medical imaging.

    • What happens when sound reaches human tissue?

      Characteristics of tissue transitions that allow us to distinguish differences in human tissue.

    • Summary of Week two

      Week two will be summarised.

  • Week 3

    The technology behind ultrasound - Part two

    • Welcome to Week three

      Introduction to Week 3, in which we go beyond the basic physics of ultrasound. Start by telling us your thoughts on how we can make an image, and test your prior knowledge for this week.

    • How can we see human tissue?

      Let's find out how the reflected ultrasound signals are used to create an image. What are the different options? And what exactly are we looking at?

    • Doppler

      You may be familiar with the term 'Doppler'. You probably encounter it everyday without even being aware of it. Learn how it is used in ultrasound to make images.

    • What determines our image?

      How good or bad is our ultrasound image? What are the determinants? And how can we improve the image?

    • What can we do with our image?

      Now we know how to make ultrasound images, and how good their quality can be. Using multiple settings on the device and training your visual-spatial orientation can help you make the best images.

    • Summary of Week three

      Summarising what was learned in this week.

  • Week 4

    The technology behind ultrasound - Part three

    • Welcome to Week four

      This is the final week about the technical perspective. Your knowledge will be more advanced by learning about such topics as artefacts and 3D ultrasound. Be sure to test your prior knowledge before you start the week!

    • What do we see?

      What we see is not always a representation of reality. This concept is important to comprehend in ultrasound imaging, since artefacts are always present.

    • Advanced ultrasound options

      Ultrasound technology is always developing. Here we highlight some of the recent developments that have already been implemented in clinical practice.

    • Special probe applications

      There is a wide variety of probes available depending on your needs. In this activity you will learn more about other probes, the options, and what you can use them for.

    • Summary of Week four

      Summarising what we have learned and discussed in this final technical week.

  • Week 5

    Technical medicine of ultrasound - The first cases

    • Welcome to Week five

      This is the first part of integrating technology and medicine. Wiendelt Steenbergen explains what this week is all about.

    • Case I - Intensive Care

      Looking back at the intensive care case and reviewing the actions of the ultrasound operator.

    • Case II - The Musculoskeletal System

      Looking back at the physiotherapy case and reviewing the actions of the ultrasound operator.

    • Case teasers

      Consider the remaining cases and let each other know if you can use your new technical insights to solve them. Their solutions by the experts will be shown next week.

    • 3-D/4-D applications

      Delving more deeply into examples of the current applications of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound.

    • Mini case: Echocardiography

      This case will briefly present what can and should be done to perform cardiac echography rapidly.

    • End of Week summary

      Summarising what was discussed and learned this week.

  • Week 6

    Technical medicine of ultrasound - The final cases

    • Welcome to Week six

      You reached the final week of the course! Can you recall the case studies from the first week? Check the recap to see what they were about.

    • Case III - The trauma patient

      Try to solve the case questions first in the quiz, and find out what our intentions were with the trauma patient case.

    • Case IV - Obstetrics

      Can you answer the case questions now? Find out if you can in the quiz, and see how our obstetric sonographer deals with this situation.

    • Case V - Blood vessels

      The final case activity: do you now know how to use Doppler to image blood vessels? Try the quiz first and see our experts performing a routine duplex examination on our patient.

    • Tailor-made session

      This activity involves the bonus technical and medical steps, in which the content is chosen by previous learners.

    • End of the course summary

      Summary of the final week and a wrapping up of the course. Now you can test your overall medical and technical knowledge on ultrasound in the final grand test, and let us know if you liked the course!

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify and comprehend the versatile use of clinical ultrasound imaging
  • Explain how medical images are created with ultrasound
  • Apply technical background knowledge of ultrasound to improve patient care

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at everyone interested in ultrasound imaging, its technological background, and its application in clinical practice. Medical students and professionals working with ultrasound who wish to improve their fundamental understanding of ultrasound may find this course particularly useful.

This course will also be beneficial to those considering a career as a radiologist, nurse, or healthcare professionalIt would also be useful for students or prospective students who are considering an area of specialism and wish to further their knowledge of ultrasound techniques and practice.

Participants are expected to have a pre-university level in mathematics and physics.

Participants with the expected starting level will need about 3 hours per week for the course. If you already have knowledge or experience about the technical aspects or medical use of ultrasound imaging, you may need less time to complete the course.

What software or tools do you need?

In this course, you will investigate ultrasound imaging in-depth and explore the different possibilities from an ultrasound device. However, it is not necessary to have an ultrasound device available.

Who will you learn with?

Wiendelt chairs the Biomedical Photonic Imaging group at the University of Twente. He teaches biomedical optics and ultrasound. A research topic is photoacoustic imaging in oncology and rheumatology.

Technical Physician at the University of Twente. I work there as a researcher and teacher, and am part of the team developing the course on Ultrasound Imaging.

Who developed the course?

University of Twente

As a young and entrepreneurial university in the Netherlands, the University of Twente prepares young people to tackle the grand challenges the world will be facing during the coming decades.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLultrasound to talk about this course on social media.