Advances in imaging
Scientists are continuing to research ways to improve ultrasound imaging and utility, to enable physicians to better read and understand ultrasound information/images. Specifically, researchers are examining how to better characterise tissue and differentiate between tissues through use of contrast agents, speckle-reduction techniques and improvements in colour flow imaging.
A very good example of such an advance is EXTENDED RESOLUTION HARMONICS. This is a technology which enables a dramatic reduction in image artifacts, reduces haze and clutter and significantly increases contrast resolution.
With EXTENDED RESOLUTION HARMONICS, the fundamental ultrasound signal is transmitted at a broad band of low frequencies. The signal resonates off tissue in the body at twice the transmitted frequency. Because higher-frequency signals travel one way from the tissue to the transducer, they are not attenuated by round-trip travel through tissue. Moreover, since the signals do not include fundamental frequencies, they are virtually free of artifacts.
EXTENDED RESOLUTION HARMONICS demonstrates significant improvements in greyscale imaging, especially in patients considered to be technically difficult, and provides a new level of patient-independent performance that can salvage examinations initially deemed undiagnostic.
Ultrasound vs other imaging technologies
Medical imaging has been an important part of medical diagnostics since the discovery of the X-ray in 1895. As imaging technology has advanced in recent decades, applications of medical imaging have expanded to address increasingly complex disease states and conditions involving soft tissues and internal body organs.
Two-dimensional X-ray is the most widely used medical imaging technology; however, the patient is exposed to harmful radiation, and improved technologies are now available that can provide more information. Examples of these newer technologies include ultrasound, computer assisted tomography (CAT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and nuclear medicine. Each imaging method requires different, specialised equipment and has certain benefits in assessing different body functions and organs.
Ultrasound has become the most accepted means of conducting fetal assessment, in part because it does not expose the patient (or fetus) to any radiation and also because it is relatively painless and less expensive than other tests. Ultra-portable ultrasound is pioneering the use of ultrasound in gynaecology to augment every pelvic examination, and in cardiology to provide a qualitative 2-D assessment of the heart.
CAT scans are the preferred method for detecting tumours, cysts and abscesses because they can be highly sensitive and specific. For example, they can sometimes distinguish between benign and malignant tumours. CAT scans are not recommended for pregnant women due to the risk of radiation exposure to the fetus.
MRI scans are the best method for examining the brain because they show the brain's white and gray matter in greater detail; however, they are not as good for visualising motion. Again, MRIs are not recommended for pregnant women due to exposure to strong magnetic fields.
Nuclear medicine can show the size, shape, position and some functions of an organ; however, due to the exposure to radioactivity, this procedure is not recommended for pregnant women.