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The fast-changing face of ultrasound

Today, one of the most widely used imaging modalities is ultrasound and its popularity is unmatched because of safety, easy availability, and fast diagnosis. Its remarkable evolution over time has greatly increased its advantages. Extraordinary new features have been integrated in ultrasound machines to provide better image quality, color sensitivity for Doppler, and adaptability of software to cover varied clinical spectrums. Unlike other imaging modalities, where images are captured linearly, ultrasound needs dexterity and special skill development. Each individual has unique characteristics, varying in age, size, weight, and the spectrum of body part imaging is very vast and diverse. The manufacturers have realized this, and the trend is to remove pitfalls by artificial intelligence (AI) integration.

Good B-mode images are the minimum requirement of any ultrasound machine, so focused B-mode images and minimum motion artifacts are most necessary. Market trends are in favor of this technology as more specialties, besides general practitioners, like cardiologists and women imaging, are focusing on fast primary diagnosis. Better tissue harmonics and imaging quality can enhance results in USG-guided procedures whether for interventional purposes or anesthetics. Anesthetics in ICU require less-space-occupying equipment with easy maneuverability; new designs can improve efficiency. The manufacturers are providing real-time probe-placement guidance and organ detection using AI-integrated software. This will make biopsy procedures easy, and more organs will become accessible. This will further increase its use in obstetric scans, considerably reducing scan time as will the automated measurement. Some of the machines have already integrated this software.

The integration of AI technology can provide easier vessel detection for vascular Dopplers, and faster diagnosis in emergency patients. For inexperienced users, organ detection and best probe placement can increase accuracy. One manufacturer has integrated a unique feature, where bio acoustic variability would have minimum effect on diagnostic scanning so that in obese patients, image quality is enhanced. The new technology adjusts beam penetration according to the patient’s body habitus. Some machines are providing beam penetration up to 40 cm depth; this is known as bioacoustics technology. All this happens automatically to give more clarity to images. The ultrasound scanning process will become easier and save time.

Another manufacturer has integrated one-click registration, gesture-detecting transducers, and real-time quad display. These features will make patient registration very easy, taking minimum time. Display of four images simultaneously, called quad display, gives choice to the user for selection of the best image and that image can be saved by touch selecting it, so in a way less time and better-quality scan is possible. In Doppler imaging, the software automatically adjusts Doppler spectrum upon freeze, so excellent image quality is obtained. Gesture-detecting transducers are easier to use now, where tapping anywhere on transducer selects that particular transducer instead of pressing buttons on the machine. Minimum patient breath-hold is achievable now as motion artifacts are reduced with newer machines. Breast imaging is a very important market and this technology can drive new users, and drive sales to new highs as the machines have integrated superior software technology for automated detection of lesions, increasing diagnostic confidence. In thyroid and liver lesions also, there is now increased clarity and detection. Quantification is required in a number of scans like cardiology for measurement of ejection fraction. This fast method will considerably reduce scan time and increase accuracy.

The flip side can be that all these new features may not be available in all machines, so target users may have to choose machines depending on the type of specialty and spectrum of patients that they have, but then the newer machines are now being designed in a modular way so that new technological advancements can be integrated in the existing level of technology.

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