October, 2019, West Hartford, CT and Clifton and Toms River, NJ – Conventional ultrasound has been helping physicians manage patient care for over 50 years. By sending sound waves through tissues and tracing how the waves are reflected back to the sonography machine, diagnostic medical sonography (DMS) lets clinicians see inside the body without cutting the skin or using harmful radiation.
As American Institute celebrates Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month, pictured here with #MySonoLife gear from the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography for our #AIFamily in the field, take a moment to consider the incredible advances in DMS over the past decades as well as some of the innovations that are taking ultrasound far beyond the hospital.
DMS is becoming more widely used as a diagnostic tool
Many people think DMS is mainly for monitoring pregnancies, producing those familiar two-dimensional images of the developing fetus. However, advances in technology are expanding the use of DMS to other areas of the hospital, other clinical settings and even other industries.
- Smaller DMS equipment that doesn’t get as hot and uses less power allows professionals to perform DMS at the point of care, in emergency rooms, physician offices and other settings.
- Improved image quality makes DMS a cost-effective alternative to much more expensive diagnostic tools, such as CT scans and MRI. DMS is even being used to guide procedures such as biopsies and ablations.
- Volumetric ultrasound now allows DMS to image organs and tissues on multiple planes, giving physicians more information about what’s happening inside the body – again, without invasive procedures or radiation.
- Ultrasound contrast agents and sonoelastography enhance the sensitivity of DMS imaging and help physicians better detect tumors by measuring tissue consistency.
- Health care reform legislation has also helped to expand DMS, because it saves money and can help improve outcomes, for example by detecting a tumor in dense breast tissue earlier than a conventional mammogram.
Innovation is taking DMS into new frontiers
Inventive new uses for ultrasound could soon change how we communicate, control our environment, and see the world.
- Phones with “touch” screens you never actually touch could use ultrasound to produce invisible, floating control buttons that you can actually feel. Contactless touch technology could revolutionize virtual reality games by letting users actually feel what they are seeing.
- Glasses for the blind could use ultrasound to enable human ecolocation, allowing the blind to see the world the way bats do. The glasses would transmit sound waves that bounce back and are converted into digital data the brain can transform into images.
- Engage the tractor beam, Mr. Sulu! Ultrasound waves can move objects if they have enough power. Researchers in England successfully used ultrasound to raise a small bead off a surface. While we may someday use ultrasound to tow spaceships, this innovation could be used much sooner to direct drug particles within the body toward a target tumor.
- Ultrasound could help us explore the universe through ultrasonic drills that penetrate even in low gravity and by enabling drones to use ecolocation to avoid obstacles in flight.