Pushing The Cutting Edge Of Ultrasound Technology

Pushing The Cutting Edge Of Ultrasound Technology

The advent of new technology has revolutionized what is possible via ultrasound, leaving it the imaging unit of choice for numerous clinical specialties that would have seemed far-fetched in decades past.

A lot has been happening in the field of ultrasound, new technologies, new workflows, and new best practices. Over just a few short years, the potential uses of ultrasound have grown exponentially, and that means exciting things for buyers and their imaging team. Some of the emerging innovations in ultrasound, such as advanced applications in 3D imaging, newer applications of ultrasound contrast, shear wave elastography, development of wireless transducers, app-based ultrasound technology, fusion with CT/MR, laparoscopic ultrasound, are set to keep the market excited for the near future.

Technology trends

Advancements in 3-D ultrasound. The slower frame rates and larger expense of 3-D ultrasound have limited its wider adoption, but its application in some specialty areas has helped rapidly expand therapies such as transcatheter structural heart interventions. The use of 3-D has big applications when the imaging is used by specialists for procedural planning or guidance, where the 3-D can offer a surgeon’s view of the anatomy. The technology is also used to help guide catheter procedures in complex anatomy.

The technology just keeps getting better and better in regards to 3-D ultrasound. All the vendors are getting better with increasing frame rates, better resolution, and improved color Doppler. The trend is definitely headed toward 3-D taking over 2-D market share in the years to come.

Most 3-D systems are still operating below 30 frames per second, but the technology and speed are improving each year. The time has come where all echo labs need at least one 3-D echo system. These systems are needed minimally for cardio-oncology patient assessments. The imaging they provide is also valuable for surgeons and structural heart interventionists, who need 3-D imaging for a more comprehensive assessment and visualization of valves, septal defects and the left atrial appendage.

Goodbye ‘opsy. Are the days of invasive tests behind us? Not entirely, but ultrasound is bringing us closer than ever before, and liver imaging provides a perfect example. With the use of contrast-enhanced ultrasound now approved by the Food and Drug Administration, diagnostic imaging of liver lesions has taken on a whole new life that would have been unprecedented not that long ago. As contrast bubbles fill the area in question, the technologist can capture an accurate image at three separate stages to diagnose the type of lesion affecting the patient. Before, this would have most likely required a biopsy to identify. But not anymore. And since approval of ultrasound imaging for liver lesions, additional applications of contrast-enhanced ultrasound have been given the green light by the FDA as well. It does not stop there. The combination of an increase in liver cirrhosis and an overweight population means that imaging capabilities have to be better if they are going to capture an accurate image at a greater depth. Thankfully, modern ultrasound is up to the task, assessing liver stiffness and starting a patient on a prescriptive regimen sooner than was possible before.

The reduction of invasive procedures coupled with a dramatic rise in non-invasive ultrasound can lead to faster results, less risk of infection and increased patient and provider satisfaction. And it is all possible thanks to innovations in the ultrasound space.

Form and function finally come together. The newest ultrasound machines are customizable to preferred parameters when conducting a test, yet they also pack in all of the technologies one have come to rely on, and then some. More attention is being made to the ergonomics of a machine in order to ensure the comfort of the user. With large, adjustable LED screens and the ability to configure height of the monitor, angle of the control console, and placement of the machine to physicians’ specifications, they are going to experience less strain on their body than they have in a long time. So, while the patient benefits from new and improved imaging capabilities, physician’s own well-being benefits from a device that does not force him into uncomfortable positions. And all of this happens without any attendant loss of diagnostic capabilities. Far from it.

A high-contrast resolution, high-fidelity transmission, one-touch image optimization, noise reduction, improved elasticity, stunning image detail, and automation are some of the biggest buzzwords in modern ultrasound. Hospitals and clinics throughout the world are finding new ways to improve clinical workflows and achieve a better patient-to-provider relationship than they have ever had before.

Shush. One great and often overlooked aspect of modern ultrasound equipment? It is quiet.

On some of the newest machines, clinicians may find themselves questioning whether or not they have even turned them on. Recently, a manufacturer has designed a system, which is 40 percent quieter than the average ultrasound system. Its 28 decibels is far below the 45 decibel average of other machines (for reference, 60 decibels is how much noise is made during a typical conversation).

That may not sound like a big deal, but anyone who’s spent an inordinate amount of time in an imaging suite can tell that having a quiet workspace makes a big difference for the comfort of both the sonographer and the patient.

A new level of support and service. Finally, not to mention that the Internet of Things has officially entered the world of ultrasound would be remiss.

Wi-fi equipped devices are the norm, and with good reason. It is now possible to instantly transmit a complete exam using technology that syncs information between multiple devices and modalities (picture an MRI machine and an ultrasound transmitting details to a single application that routes the appropriate results where necessary).

That kind of connectivity improves communication and speeds up diagnosis, but there is another huge benefit of having wi-fi onboard, service. In many cases, clinicians no longer have to wait while their ultrasound provider sends someone out to take a look at the problem. It may be possible for them to log directly into the machine, diagnosis of what is wrong and fix it with a simple (or complex) software update. This also means that equipment remains cutting edge, thanks to regular updates from manufacturers.

Outlook is bright

The advent of new technology has revolutionized what is possible via ultrasound, leaving it the imaging unit of choice for numerous clinical specialties that would have seemed far-fetched in decades past. Ultrasound is going places, and it is time to hitch a ride!

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