The Mayo Clinic website specifies that "Diagnostic medical sonographers and vascular technologists use nonionizing, high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to diagnose, treat and prevent medical conditions."

Is there any reason they use the term nonionizing? As far as I understand there isn't a form of sound waves that can cause ionization.

2 Answers 2


You're right: their description contains redundancy.

I think the reason for the extra clarification may be to make sure readers understand that the method does not involve X-rays (which are ionising, and hence more dangerous). I've seen people confuse them with ultrasound, because both methods are used for seeing through tissue, their results look similar at a glance, and popular culture colloquially refers to any sort of "seeing through things" as "X-ray vision".

  • I would think that the term nonionizing is, to the general population, not especially informative. Wouldn't specifying that the method does not use electromagnetic radiation (or just radiation if you prefer) be more helpful?
    – J Petersen
    Oct 21, 2016 at 15:04
  • Calling it "electromagnetic radiation" only trades one redundant explanation for another. If you can't trust the "general population" to understand "nonionizing", what chance do they have at "EM radiation"? At some point you have to trust your listener to ask additional questions themselves, or risk becoming an excessively elucidating physics professor.
    – Anko
    Oct 21, 2016 at 16:48

Precisely to emphasize the safety of ultrasound and to point out that you or your fetus will not be subjected to any sort of radiation as it may be the case in some of the other popular imaging methods besides ultrasound.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.