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Special report: Ultrasound

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | July 05, 2013
International Day of Radiology 2012
From the July 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

The technology aids physicians in advanced visualization and quantification, transcending some of the limitations of traditional 2-D ultrasound. One example: Toshiba’s Aplio 500 system has Fly Thru technology that allows operators to visually explore the reconstructed insides of fluid-filled vessels without having to go inside them.

3-D ultrasound can also help aid complex interventional procedures — physicians can now read multiplanar reconstructed images acquired by the transducer from multiple angles in the same manner as CT or MR scans.

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And the matrix array transducers of 3-D ultrasound are helping increase acquisition rates and image visualization. Philips uses this technology to move the computing to the transducer in their ClearVue systems, lowering the price point while keeping the image quality high.

In conjunction with this technology, some vendors also sell quantification packages that help physicians interpret and quantify their images more efficiently. For example, Esaote North America, Inc. offers a cardiovascular Prevention Suite of imaging applications that assist in early-stage detection and prevention rather than treatment — another general trend in cardiology that will also impact how manufacturers approach their products, according to Esaote general manager, Gordon Parhar.

In contrast…
Getting ultrasound contrast finally cleared in the U.S. would also significantly improve ultrasound visualization and boost its profile among physicians, experts say.

Currently, the U.S. is the only country in the developed world not to widely use ultrasound contrast (to be more specific, ultrasound contrast is cleared for a narrow left ventricle imaging indication only). This puts the modality at an inherent disadvantage for tumor visualization compared with CT or MR, both of which have contrast agents cleared for use.

But that situation may be due to change soon. Industry experts hope that Bracco’s ultrasound contrast product SonoVue will be approved by early 2014 for both cardiac and non-cardiac indications. The clearance could have a significant impact on oncology screenings, particularly for kidney and liver tumor imaging, displacing old standbys like MR and CT. “We are eagerly looking forward to the end of the Bracco study so we can get ultrasound contrast approved by the FDA,” says Smits.

Are you dense?
Ultrasound is also finding new applications in specialties like breast screening. While 2-D mammography is still the gold standard for breast cancer screening for most women, it’s more likely to miss cancers in women with dense breasts — breasts with more connective than fatty tissue.

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