Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering


MPHY0018: Ultrasound in Medicine

Module information 

Year of study
Module team

year 3 or 4 UG, and PG
Term 1
Exam 80%, Coursework & Practical Sessions 20%
Ben Cox (module organiser), Bradley Treeby, Paul Beard, Andrew Plumb


The purpose of this course is to provide a complete introduction to the physics and clinical application of biomedical ultrasound. Clinically, ultrasound is already the most widely used imaging modality, and its application to therapy has grown rapidly over the last decade. Students who take this course will have a solid grounding in ultrasound to take into research or clinical work.


• To impart knowledge and understanding on the basic physical principles of ultrasound imaging and therapy
• To impart knowledge and understanding on the instrumentation used by these techniques
• To impart knowledge on the clinical applications of these techniques
• To impart knowledge and understanding on the biological hazards, safe levels and methods of measurement of ultrasound fields

Exams & Coursework

The year 3 and year 4 variants will differ in the amount of coursework that is set. The exam, in term 3, will be the same.


There are no strict prerequisites but, in addition to the minimum entry requirements for our undergraduate degree programmes, we assume students will have some familiarity with the following:

• Mathematics: simple algebra, trigonometry, basic differential and integral calculus, exponentials, vectors, complex numbers, vector calculus notation.
• Physics / Engineering: Newton’s laws and conservation laws.
• Biology: No specific background knowledge required.

Module Content

  • Ultrasound physics
  • Basic acoustics and the wave equation
  • Scattering, reflection, refraction, diffraction
  • Acoustic absorption
  • Piezoelectric effect
  • Ultrasonic transducers
  • Diagnostic ultrasound imaging
  • Principles of ultrasound image formation
  • Ultrasound image artefacts
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Ultrasound elastography
  • Nonlinear acoustics and harmonic imaging
  • Ultrasound contrast agents
  • Novel ultrasound imaging modes
  • Clinical applications of diagnostic ultrasound
  • Ultrasound Bioeffects and Therapy
  • Thermal bioeffects of ultrasound
  • Mechanical bioeffects of ultrasound
  • Ultrasound safety
  • Focused ultrasound surgery
  • Ultrasound-assisted drug delivery
  • Clinical applications of therapeutic ultrasound

Some Texts & Links

• ed. P.R. Hoskins, K. Martin & A. Thrush, Diagnostic Ultrasound: Physics and Equipment, Cambridge, 2010

• R.S.C. Cobbold, Foundations of Biomedical Ultrasound, Oxford, 2007

• T.L. Szabo, Diagnostic Ultrasound Imaging, Elsevier, 2004

• L.E. Kinsler, A.R. Frey, A.B. Coppens & J.V. Sanders, Fundamentals of Acoustics, 3rd edn, Wiley, 1982

• A. Pierce, Acoustics: An introduction to its physical principles and applications, Acoustical Society of America, 1989

Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology 

IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control