Feature | May 18, 2011 | Donald Barry, Ph.D.

The Challenge for Ultrasound Imaging

The last couple of years in the United States and Europe have seen an increased focus on the cumulative patient dose received from a wide variety of X-ray devices including classical X-ray, computed tomography (CT), interventional radiology and mammography. The deleterious effects of radiation dose have received widespread coverage, and the partial answer has been a movement towards non-ionizing diagnostic imaging equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound.

The increased use of ultrasound both in diagnostic and guided applications, as well as in specific venues such as the emergency room, is well documented and continues to rise. This rapid increase is expected to continue as the newer ultrasound units, especially hand-carried and hand-held units, continue to improve and as new and better software applications for noise reduction and image enhancements become available.

The relatively low-energy acoustic waves used in ultrasound, which make for a relatively safe diagnostic imaging environment, lead to difficulties penetrating thick layers of human tissue. With approximately two-thirds of the U.S. populations estimated to be obese and other estimates showing that more than 50 percent of all abdominal scans are of technically difficult patients (typically with a BMI in excess of 30), this problem dominates the diagnostic ultrasound market in both the United States and Europe. Also, various sources estimate the average exam of a difficult patient takes 20-40 percent longer – if it can even be carried out.

The liver and other key abdominal organs can lie 4 to 5 centimeters below the surface in difficult patients. This presents great difficulties in achieving good diagnostic quality ultrasounds and places more physical strain on sonographers and radiologists. Radiologists must use a lower frequency probe to penetrate the tissue, which leads to a concomitant loss of resolution. In cases where the low-frequency probe fails, the radiologist must resort either to a more expensive and time-consuming MRI exam or a dose-producing CT exam.

The ultrasound industry has recognized this challenge and developed a number of technologies both in software and hardware to address it. Leading probe manufacturers have attacked the problem via advanced design and materials. Software suppliers have also developed targeted approaches to penetrate the deep tissue. For example, ContextVision’s newest ultrasound image enhancement product includes a directed, focused image enhancement mode. This mode allows the user to enhance deep-lying organs without over-effecting mid- and near-field structures. When combined with the newest probe technology, this image enhancement technology will alleviate some of the issues associated with ultrasound examinations of technically difficult patients.

Donald Barry is director of commercial development for ContextVision, which is an independent developer of medical imaging enhancement, analysis and processing technologies, serving leading OEMs and distributors for more than 25 years.

Related Content

New Robotic Arm System Optimizes Testing of Ultrasound Probes

Image courtesy of Esaote

News | Ultrasound Imaging | November 09, 2018
Medical imaging company Esaote and The BioRobotics Institute of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy, have...
Charles Ananian, M.D.

Charles Ananian, M.D.

Sponsored Content | Case Study | Digital Radiography (DR) | November 07, 2018
Whether it’s a premature baby or a critically ill child, treating little patients is a huge responsibility.
Results of the vertebrae-based analysis (383 vertebrae in 34 patients) for detection of BME.

Results of the vertebrae-based analysis (383 vertebrae in 34 patients) for detection of BME.

Sponsored Content | Case Study | Computed Tomography (CT) | November 06, 2018
The following is a summary of a study published in the
The Acuson Sequoia

The Acuson Sequoia from Siemens Healthineers.

Feature | Ultrasound Imaging | November 05, 2018 | By Jeff Zagoudis
As the world’s most utilized medical imaging modality, ultrasound is likely to be featured heavily at the 2018...
Fujifilm SonoSite Launches New Point-of-Care Ultrasound Educational Resources
News | Ultrasound Imaging | November 01, 2018
Fujifilm SonoSite Inc. announced the launch of its redesigned SonoSite Institute, a comprehensive online educational...
Vygon and Sonoscanner Partnering on New Ultrasound System for Catheter Placement Guidance
News | Cardiovascular Ultrasound | October 31, 2018
Vygon, an international group specialized in single-use medical devices, and French company Sonoscanner announced the...
Cardiac Ultrasound Software Streamlines Fetal Heart Exams
Feature | Cardiovascular Ultrasound | October 30, 2018
A new tool called fetalHQ on GE Healthcare’s Voluson ultrasound systems is the first tool to simultaneously examine the...
Hitachi Supports ASE Foundation Cardiovascular Outreach Mission in West Virginia
News | Cardiovascular Ultrasound | October 29, 2018
Hitachi Healthcare Americas participated in the cardiovascular screening and diagnostic triage event that took place...
Philips Debuts Integrated Breast Ultrasound Solution
News | Ultrasound Women's Health | October 26, 2018
Philips announced what it calls its ultimate ultrasound solution for breast assessment, available with the Philips Epiq...
Samsung Unveils New HERA Ultrasound Systems at ISUOG World Congress 2018

The HERA I10 ultrasound system on display at the ISUOG World Congress 2018. Image courtesy of Samsung Medison.

News | Ultrasound Imaging | October 24, 2018
Samsung Electronics affiliate Samsung Medison is showcasing its new generation of premium ultrasound systems — the HERA...