Ultrasound frequencies

Last revised by Sarah Catchpoole on 20 Apr 2023

Ultrasound frequencies in diagnostic radiology range from 2 MHz to approximately 15 MHz. 

Higher ultrasound frequencies have shorter wavelengths and provide better detail and spatial resolution (recall that Axial resolution (ultrasound) = ½ ⨉ spatial pulse length). However, shorter wavelengths and are absorbed/attenuated more easily. Therefore, higher frequencies are not as penetrating. This explains why high frequencies are used for the superficial body structures and low frequencies are used for those that are deeper.

Medical ultrasound transducers contain more than one operating frequency. The following frequencies are a guide to frequencies typically used for ultrasound examination:

  • 2.5 MHz: deep abdomen, obstetric and gynecological imaging

  • 3.5 MHz: general abdomen, obstetric and gynecological imaging

  • 5.0 MHz: vascular, breast, pelvic imaging

  • 7.5 MHz: breast, thyroid

  • 10.0 MHz: breast, thyroid, superficial veins, superficial masses, musculoskeletal imaging.

  • 15.0 MHz: superficial structures, musculoskeletal imaging.

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