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Doctors at Duke University are riding the waves of the future. Biomedical engineers have designed a novel new ultrasound probe that will deliver 3D images from 108 tiny transducers working together.
Doctors are hoping that this device will have many applications and will replace current x-ray guided procedures inside blood vessels, such as the placement of coronary stents. The advantage of this technology means that the doctor will not only be able to place the stent with precision accuracy but will have the capability of performing Doppler Duplex scanning from inside the blood vessel to evaluate the results of the procedure.
Doctors have already found the new probe to be effective in two types of simulations using a water tank and synthetic blood vessels. The first procedure involved the placement of a filter within the blood vessel. This procedure is commonly performed when a person has or is at risk for having blood clots (usually in the legs or arms) that may break loose and travel through the circulatory system causing stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary embolus. The filter is designed to trap the blood clots before they make their way to vital organs.
The other procedure that the doctors successfully completed was an aortic patch procedure. This procedure places a synthetic patch material in the major artery that feeds blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The aorta is a common site for aneurysms or bulged areas that can rupture and cause death from internal bleeding in a matter of minutes.
The uses for this type of transducer technology can be endless. Doctors envision that eventually they will be able to perform heart valve replacement and place coils inside the brain to prevent strokes using this device. Doctors hope to begin testing the procedures on animals next year.
Currently doctors rely on traditional x-ray for these types of procedures, which only give fleeting images and often involve the use of contrast media to make the vessels show up better. However, some patients can have severe allergies to the contrast media, and for patients who have compromised kidney function, the contrast can cause further kidney damage. The use of ultrasound technology from within the blood vessel will eliminate those risks.
The ultrasound probe is small enough to ride along on the tip of the vascular catheter as the physician moves it along the path of the blood vessel, allowing the doctor to be certain where the catheter tip is at all times and reducing the risk of potential damage to the blood vessels.