Ultrasound Technology Continues to Evolve

The promise of ultrasound has always been in its ability to visualize tissues dynamically without the use of radiation. Today’s guest post by Michelle Brunet tells us about the road ahead for ultrasound:

Cardiovascular technicians, diagnostic medical sonographers, radiologic technologists and other healthcare professionals are increasingly incorporating ultrasound as an imaging tool for both diagnosis and treatment. Due to the fact that the equipment is relatively cost effective and it does not rely on radiation, it is becoming more and more important in a range of healthcare departments. Often referred to as the “stethoscope of the future,” Health Imaging’s Editor Lisa Fratt predicts that ultrasound technology, as it continues to become more compact and transportable, will indeed replace the medical tool we are accustomed to seeing around a doctor’s neck.

The advancements have already begun in terms of shrinking or portability, potentially allowing ultrasound machines to be employed in field hospitals and other temporary medical facilities (i.e. in Third World Countries or war settings), but also in point-of-care or beside scenarios. One such example of portability is the development of a wearable ultrasound machine developed upon the encouragement of Master Sergeant Cheryl Vance back in 2002. An instructor at the Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, Vance began implementing the new form of technology to teach her students how to perform ultrasounds in an efficient manner. Weighing less than four pounds, it consisted of a central processing unit-vest with an attachable probe, a wristband with a mouse and keyboard and an eyepiece displaying the system’s interface.

Recently, the first ultrasound smart phone came out onto the market. In the fall of 2011, Mobisante released the MobiUS SP1. Like other smart phones, it acts as a conventional communications device with typical Internet/e-mail and telephone functions. But once attachable probe is inserted into the device’s USB port it transforms into a mini ultrasound machine. “Ultrasound imaging is safe, effective and can save lives, however more than 70% of the world’s population does not have access to ultrasound because it is expensive and not portable enough,” states Mobisante’s website. The company is hoping its new product (that was approved by the FDA) will allow even the most remote medical clinics to benefit from sonography as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool.

In addition to ultrasound technology becoming more compact and portable, there have also been advancements in performance and capabilities. For example, Philips’ iU22 xMATRIX ultrasound system is capable of switching between two-dimensional and three-dimensional imaging with the click of a button. It also comes equipped with a special transducer that can image two distinct planes at the same time, allowing for a more thorough examination. The Siemens ACUSON S2000 ultrasound system is another example. This particular machine not only performs conventional ultrasounds but also acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) imaging to help diagnose masses in the neck, liver, intestinal tract and other areas of the body.

The use of ultrasound is expected to increase in terms of diagnostic and therapeutic methodologies but also in terms of settings, including point-of-care and temporary medical locations. With this in mind, technology will continue to become more sophisticated and portable to meet the growing demand.
Michelle Brunet completed a BSc in biology and environmental studies and a BEd in secondary education. After a short teaching career, she realized writing was her passion and now pursues this full time, contributing to various online and print media, including writing for ultrasoundschoolsinfo.com.