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From breast exams to childbirth, ultrasound is gaining momentum

by Lauren Dubinsky , Senior Reporter
From the July 2016 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

“Microcalcifications are usually very, very tiny and sometimes you are looking a little bit for a needle in the haystack,” says Tina Hodgson, ultrasound marketing manager at Toshiba. “You may find them in the end, but you will spend longer, probably, looking for them. The MicroPure can help them pop out at you and make them more visible.” Ultrasound shouldn’t be used as a substitute for mammography, but when additional screening is needed the MicroPure technology makes ultrasound a good option. It uses a filter technique called Constant False Alarm Rate, which makes the calcifications appear brighter.

Thomas Jefferson University has recently started another study to investigate how useful MicroPure is for biopsies. When patients need a biopsy for microcalcifications, it’s usually guided by mammography, but ultrasound might be more ideal. “[Mammography] is uncomfortable for the patient because you put her belly on the machine and then you compress her breast and it takes a little while,” says Dr. Priscilla Machado, one of the lead researchers. So far they have performed four biopsies using MicroPure and have found that it works well. They are now trying to see if they can reproduce those same findings with a larger number of patients.
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“We still have a lot of things to study. The next step will be doing more biopsies using MicroPure, trying to see if we are in the right location,” says Machado.

Shear wave elastography
Shear wave elastography has been used to image the liver for many years, but it’s starting to be used more for breast imaging now. In 2013, Siemens received FDA clearance for its Virtual Touch technology, and in November 2015, Toshiba’s shear wave technology for breast imaging received clearance. Shear wave technology provides information on stiffness in breast tissue. It generates a color-coded map, so clinicians can see what they might have missed on ultrasound, and it gives them a quantifiable number on how stiff a certain area is.

Other options on the market are GE’s LOGIQ E9 ultrasound system with shear wave elastography software, which received FDA clearance in December 2014, and SuperSonic Imagine’s Aixplorer ultrasound system, which received clearance in August 2009.

New player in the OB/GYN market
In June 2015, Carestream took its plunge into the ultrasound market with the introduction of its Touch Prime and Touch Prime XE ultrasound systems. North Fulton Hospital in Georgia is one of the first facilities in the U.S. to purchase the Touch Prime XE. This system is especially helpful when assessing the venous and arterial flow through the umbilical cord. When clinicians are looking at color flow, they typically can only see red and blue to indicate the venous and arterial blood flow, but this system has arrows that show the direction of the flow.
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