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The Future of Ultrasound Imaging Technology

written by: mslate•edited by: dianahardin•updated: 3/19/2012

Medical ultrasound is growing at a rapid rate, and there are many new developments in the field, both diagnostic and therapeutic. Discover some of the concepts of the future.

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    Ultrasound technology is one of the fastest growing fields in medicine, and its uses are not limited by the boundaries of obstetrics. No one is proving this better than the United States military, who has developed and is training with portable ultrasound technology.

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    Air Force Develops New Ultrasound Technology

    The Air Force 382 Air Unit, stationed at Sheppard Air Force base in Texas, has developed an ultrasound unit that is fully wearable by the user. The unit consists of a vest that holds the probe and central processing unit (CPU), a wristband that holds the keyboard and mouse, and an eyepiece that allows the operator to see a display that uses a Microsoft Windows interface.

    The unit is currently being used to teach ultrasound technology to Air Force technicians. This enables an instructor to be able to walk about the room and show real time ultrasound pictures of the internal anatomy. The machine is also capable of storing images and transmitting them to Doctors across the country for expert consultations in moments. This machine will allow ultrasound to be taken to areas of the world where it previously has never been.

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    Ultrasound in Cardiology, Orthopedics, and Cancer

    Doctors at Cleveland Clinic are using 3D ultrasound technology to obtain images of plaque deposits in arteries and analyze their composition.Based on the analysis of the physical characteristics of the plaque deposits, doctors are able to predict which patients are most at risk for cardiovascular events and intervene accordingly.Widespread use of this technique has the capability of decreasing death from heart disease worldwide by unimagined numbers.

    Ultrasound may also one day make bone check ups for osteoporosis as simple as taking a blood pressure.The device is called a bone sonometer; they send an ultrasound impulse across the heel bone to measure how the bone affects the signal.A different version of this device can measure the effects of long bone mass, such as the tibia, on ultrasound waves. These devices can be used as screening methods to determine the need for more costly and time-consuming trips to hospitals or radiologic centers for bone density tests, but doctors don’t predict that they will yet replace bone density testing.

    While not approved in the United States, ultrasound is being used in Mexico as a treatment for Prostate cancer, but with varying degrees of success.Many men from the United States are crossing the Mexican border to obtain the controversial treatment.

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    Conclusion

    The trend of the future is that ultrasound devices are definitely getting smaller and have easier to use software devices. That feature, in itself, is going to expand the uses and capabilities of ultrasound. It is not unrealistic to imagine that one day ultrasound will go internal, allowing doctors to peer into nooks and crannies of the body that are still difficult to visualize today. With the modern use of endoscopes and laproscopy, the supportive technology already exists. While the devices being used by the Air Force may not turn us all into cyberborgs, we can be sure that we will continue to see advances in ultrasound technology as one of the fastest growing and most technologically advanced fields of modern medicine.