Ultrasound images, known as sonograms, have become a familiar part of pregnancy, allowing expectant parents a view of their unborn child. But new research at MIT could improve the ability of untrained workers to perform basic ultrasound tests, while allowing trained workers to much more accurately track the development of medical conditions, such as the growth of a tumor or the buildup of plaque in arteries.
The improvements to this widely used technology could provide detailed information far beyond what is possible with existing systems, the researchers say. The work, led by Brian W. Anthony, co-director of MIT’s Medical Electronic Device Realization Center (MEDRC) and director of the Master of Engineering in Manufacturing Program, was recently presented at the International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging in Barcelona, Spain.There are two key elements to the improvements engineered by Anthony and his team. First, the researchers devised a way to adjust for variations in the force exerted by a sonographer, producing more consistent images that can compensate for body motions such as breathing and heartbeat. Second, they provided a way to map the exact location on the skin where one reading was taken, so that it can be precisely matched with later readings to detect changes in the size or location of a tumor, clot or other structure.
Together, the two improvements could make sonography a much more precise tool for monitoring the progression of disease, Anthony says. The devices are currently undergoing three clinical trials, including one at Boston Children’s Hospital focused on monitoring the progression of patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
In that trial, Anthony says, researchers are trying to determine “how fast the muscle deteriorates, and how effective different medications are.” It’s important to have a reliable way of monitoring changes in muscle, he says. The study is aimed at determining whether ultrasound analysis can serve as a convenient, noninvasive, clinically meaningful way of monitoring disease progression in DMD.
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Sharper ultrasound images could improve diagnostics - MIT News Office