"With our scanner, doctors could see the target lesion or a portion of an organ in a real-time three-dimensional scan," said lead engineer Stephen Smith, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Pratt School. "They would have the option of viewing the tissue in three perpendicular cross-sectional slices simultaneously or in the same way a camera would see it –- except that a camera can't see through blood and tissue."
Duke University developed the first 3D ultrasound scanner in 1987 for imaging the heart from outside the body. As technology enabled ever smaller ultrasound arrays, the researchers engineered probes that could fit inside catheters threaded through blood vessels to image the vasculature and heart from the inside out.
The current advance relies on 500 tiny cables and sensors packed into a tube 12 millimeters in diameter - the size required to fit into trocars. By comparison, most two-dimensional ultrasound probes use just 64 cables.
"It's a feat of technology and craftsmanship to build these devices," Smith said. "More cables translate into better image quality. The scanners achieve a 3D moving image instantaneously, with no reconstruction."
The laparoscopic ultrasound probes have so far been applied only to heart imaging, in which they may be particularly useful for monitoring heart function during minimally invasive cardiac surgery, Smith said. Current methods often monitor the heart with a 2D ultrasound endoscope probe down the throat, a method that requires general anaesthesia.
"If physicians instead used the laparoscopic ultrasonography imager, they could monitor function for hours through a tiny incision -– possibly without anesthesia," Smith said. "That would be a big step forward."
MEDICA.de; Source: Duke University