How handheld ultrasound can achieve mainstream adoption

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How handheld ultrasound can achieve mainstream adoption

December 14, 2020
From the November 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Table 1 - AI solutions available for handheld ultrasounds

Ultrasound AI is at an early stage of development and there are few commercialised and regulatory-cleared solutions on the market. As shown in Tables 1 and 2, there are several use cases for AI, ranging from anatomy navigation and image capture assistance, to image quality assurance and image analysis. AI-powered anatomy navigation will help novice users to locate, identify and label parts of the anatomy, while image capture assistance will provide guidance on how best to position the probe to obtain the optimal image quality. The first solutions are coming to market, including Caption Health’s Caption AI which guides novice ultrasound users in acquiring diagnostic-quality echo exams, and Intelligent Ultrasound’s ScanNav Anatomy (CE and De Novo FDA applied for) which identifies several nerve types for peripheral nerve block procedures.
Table 2 - Solutions offered by ultrasound AI software developers

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While AI for ultrasound image analysis has progressed faster, most of the products on the market today are “point” solutions for specific tasks, for example algorithmic solutions for automated assessment of ejection fraction of the heart or automated counting of B-lines for lung imaging. Moreover, these solutions are only available for the heart, lungs and thyroid and there are no AI-based image analysis products for other body areas, for example the liver, aorta and gallbladder. This limits the utility of ultrasound AI as it can only be applied to specific exams, whereas users require an AI “toolkit” with support for the most common exam and procedure types.

Going forward, today’s point solutions are expected to evolve into “comprehensive” AI solutions that can detect, label, quantify and classify multiple findings for a given organ or body area. Ultimately, comprehensive AI solutions will be available for multiple body areas and full body imaging. As AI begins to more closely mimic how clinicians use ultrasound, by offering image capture and diagnostic support for a wide range of common pathologies and findings, in addition to supporting with interventional procedures, the barriers to using ultrasound will be lowered and it will become more accessible to novice users.

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