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SonoSite releases needle visualization package

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | July 15, 2010
SonoSite's Enhanced Needle
Visualization technology.
SonoSite Inc. released a software upgrade for some of its ultrasound models to help anesthesiologists better view needles that can often appear invisible during pain-relieving sticks called nerve blocks.

The technology, dubbed Enhanced Needle Visualization, runs on algorithms the Bothell, Wash.-based company said its engineers spent two years developing.

According to SonoSite, the "lost needle phenomenon" is a well-known drawback of some ultrasound-guided anesthesiology procedures, especially peripheral nerve blocks, where doctors have to deliver needles at steep angles to numb pain in limbs, often during surgeries.

"If the doctor of any kind, in this case an anesthesiologist, wants to put a needle down near a target which is deep, they insert the needle next to the probe and they aim deep into the body," Kevin Goodwin, CEO of SonoSite, told DOTmed News. "That needle travels in parallel with the probe and the probe beam. As it heads towards the target, the doctor cannot tell where the needle is and therefore, it's very difficult to do nerve blocks or other injections that are deep in the body where you're trying to pinpoint the location of your medicine," he said.

Goodwin said the new Enhanced Needle Visualization tool could potentially save customers money because it can eliminate the need for echogenic needles in several cases and drastically improve throughput.

"It's been an absolute home run for us with customers," said Goodwin. "Doctors are now able to understand that they could do more procedures with greater confidence, with greater accuracy and less time."

The software upgrade is currently available for SonoSite's HFL50 and HFL38 transducers, the company said.

"This is going to eliminate any difficulties I have with accurately visualizing the shaft of the needle and it will decrease the time it takes to perform a steep needle procedure," Dr. Mimi Lee, an anesthesiologist based in Marin, Calif., said in a statement.

Goodwin said that there is much evidence that needle injection accuracy is a major problem in the industry. In some cases in the last year, orthopedic injection accuracy rates were off by as much as 30 percent, explained Goodwin.

SonoSite plans to expand Enhanced Needle Visualization to other procedures in the near future, said Goodwin.

Olga Deshchenko contributed to this report.