Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My first ultrasound!

Yup, I had my first ultrasound today!  No, not of a future mini-me; the ultrasound was actually taken of my achilles tendon and part of my calf.  But it was my first, so the statement's true (albeit misleading).

I work in an engineering building on campus, and a friend who works in a lab down the hall needed one more "young" person for a research trial.  I wasn't sure what to expect; I only knew that it involved taking images of my achilles tendon, and that I needed to wear something that exposed my calf.

I wore a skirt to work that day and brought jeans along in my bag for afterwards.  My email reminder about the trial asked that I walk for six minutes prior to my start time, so I did that while I got the mail.

The first thing I had to do was sign a form allowing the research group to use my results and the personal health information I provided.  Then we got started.

They put this foot brace on me, which held a gel pad in place.  Before sliding the gel pad in, they squeezed a bunch of that cold ultrasound gel on (like in the movies with expecting mothers).  There was an opening in the back of the brace so that the ultrasound could be taken of my achilles tendon.

Below is the setup.  There was a shoe attached to a device, and the ultrasound machine is on the left side.  So I laid down on my stomach on the black table and put my foot in the shoe.

Opposite the table was a desk with a laptop.  During tests the laptop played a metronome toc.  There was a thermometer-looking thing on the right side of the screen that I had to watch.  When I pushed my foot and extended it, the orange "thermometer" went up.  There was a line at 12.5 degrees and -12.5 degrees.  I've dubbed the screen "metronome thermometer":

Every time the metronome ticked, I needed to push and extend my foot until the orange line hit +12.5, and on the next tick I would bring my toe back until the orange line lowered to -12.5.  There were three different modes that the test was done at: a light mode, during which it was easy to keep the beat; an involuntary mode, where they moved my foot for me; and a heavy mode with some weight resistance.

I found it impossible to stay exactly on the beat during the "hard mode", because after I pushed my toe out to +12.5 on beat, the weight slid in a split second later, so it took longer to pull it back.  There was lag when I would push out again, and soon enough I'd get behind the beat.  Having a musical background, it really bothered me to be off beat.  I'm not sure how much it mattered whether or not I was exactly on beat, but during the heavy modes I'd always get off and skip and wait to get back on again.

There were a couple different sets of the three modes.  During two sets, I think, images were taken of somewhere on my calf, and during another set, the achilles tendon.  The whole thing took exactly an hour.  I was happy to help, and it was fun to do something out of the ordinary this Wednesday!
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