Sonographer’s Guide to New Ultrasound Technology

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Innovation trends over the last few years have altered the face of ultrasound technology, leading to highly sophisticated ultrasound machines that cater to a wide range of specialties. These range from the adoption of artificial intelligence for faster cardiac imaging to using IoT enabled ultrasound machines for faster and improved collaboration among different healthcare practitioners. Apart from such breakthrough trends, there have been continuous ultrasound machine advancements like improved imaging capabilities, and workflow for enhancing the quality of both cart-based and handheld devices.

While innovation is always good news due to it helping us find improved, faster, and more accurate ways of doing things, it also leads to an inevitable change that everyone needs to adapt to. At times this is easier said than done. With rapid advancements in ultrasound technology, it becomes difficult to match steps with every technological progress.

However, it’s important to leverage new cutting-edge technologies to deliver timely and quality healthcare that is on par with modern times. It would help you stay ahead of the competition and improve the sustainability of your practice.

To keep you updated with the latest features and functionalities of modern ultrasound systems, we’ve created a guide to the some of the most advanced ultrasound technologies.

Advances in Ultrasound Technology

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Among the several new trends that have shaped the development of ultrasound machines today, some have been more significant than others in terms of influencing the overall quality of healthcare in different specialties. Here are some crucial developments in ultrasound technology.

1. Diagnostic Liver Imaging

One of the most significant ultrasound advancements has been the application of liver imaging with contrast agents. It has helped replace biopsies for evaluating liver lesions which is a significant achievement in and by itself. To accurately image the liver lesions with ultrasound, allow the contrast bubbles to fill the affected area after which images at three different stages can be captured for a full analysis.

It even allows us to easily scan obese patients, which wasn’t possible with ultrasound technology until recently. There are several advantages of using non-invasive ultrasound over invasive biopsies, the primary one being a pain-free procedure leading to higher patient comfort and satisfaction. Ultrasound also enables faster diagnoses and carries no risk of infection.

2. Higher Efficiency and Improved Workflows

Efficiency is key in clinics today as both patients and doctors are pressed for time. Modern ultrasound machines provide streamlined clinical workflows, making it easier to adapt to different patients and exams with the touch of a button and without compromising on the imaging quality.

In peak hours, productivity can be greatly enhanced by using advanced ultrasound technology that allows operators to easily switch from one patient to another or from one exam type to another with one-touch imaging. An increasing number of clinics are adopting new ultrasound technology for higher patient throughput leading to increased revenues.

3. Advanced Ergonomics

Previous ultrasound machines were designed with no thought for the sonographer’s comfort. New ultrasound machines, however, are designed to ensure ease of operability and comfort of the practitioner. They have adjustable LED screens and advanced ergonomics that allow practitioners to configure the console angle, monitor height, and most importantly the placement of the machine according to individual preferences. This helps sonographers in operating the machine while reducing the likelihood of stress and strain on the body.

Apart from advanced ergonomics, modern ultrasound systems also provide improved workflow and enhanced imaging capabilities. Advanced imaging is achieved with the help of automation and technologies like noise reduction, one-touch image optimization, and high-fidelity transmission. It’s a win-win for operators and patients. Operators get to enjoy the ease of use while patients benefit from improved imaging capabilities that lead to accurate and prompt diagnoses.

4. Internet of Things (IoT) Empowered Ultrasound Technology

IoT allows interconnected devices to collect and exchange data to promote communication without human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT enabled ultrasound devices are expected to transform healthcare delivery by allowing doctors to sync images and exam results across multiple devices and platforms while consulting with each other remotely. This will promote a reduction in delays in healthcare delivery while improving patient outcomes. This also has huge implications for in-home health monitoring as doctors and patients can communicate with each other and even share confidential information and diagnoses over a secure medium.

5. Easy Mobility 

Clinics typically have space constraints, so having separate equipment for each room may not be feasible, and not to mention expensive, due to ultrasound machine costs. Clinics and medical facilities are therefore opting for equipment that is versatile and can be easily wheeled from room to room. Many modern ultrasound systems come with a set of different transducers allowing practitioners to quickly switch from one application to another depending on the type of exam being conducted. This allows one ultrasound system to be used even in large hospitals or at least in one department or floor, depending upon the size of the facility.

6. Reduced Noise Levels

New ultrasound machines tend to be much quieter than their predecessors thanks to improved ultrasound technology. This may seem like a trivial issue but in emergency departments and ICUs, patients are vulnerable and to ensure their welfare, it’s of critical importance to minimize noise. Even in clinics, it’s strongly recommended to use quieter equipment for the benefit of everyone involved: to help the operators concentrate and patients relax.

Advancements in Cardiovascular and OB/GYN Ultrasound

Some of the best ultrasound machine trends in various specialties like cardiac and OB/GYN include the use of artificial intelligence and 3D ultrasound, touch screen ultrasound devices, enhanced imaging quality, and streamlined workflow of high-tier as well as portable ultrasound devices. Here’s a deeper look into how artificial intelligence and 3D use has impacted ultrasound imaging.

1. 3D Ultrasound

Until recently many healthcare professionals were hesitant to switch from 2D to 3D ultrasound technology due to several reasons. The primary reason was that 3D was more expensive than 2D and the second reason being the lengthy process of having to first convert a large amount of image data into 2D. But automation software spelled good news for all as it eliminated the need for the cumbersome process.

Besides, more people are now waking up to the benefits of 3D which may lead to an increasing number of cardiologists using 3D imaging for a high degree of accuracy that is independent of the skill level of the sonographer. For instance, the accuracy in the scanning and interpretation of 2D images depends on the sonographer’s ability to achieve the best possible viewing plane. The variability in imaging can hence lead to an error in diagnosis which, in a worst-case scenario, could be potentially fatal.

This can be rectified by using 3D ultrasound imaging that doesn’t depend on the sonographer’s skill level, eliminating the operator variability in scanning and interpreting images by capturing data in a cone-shaped volume that allows easy slicing and viewing on any plane.

3D ultrasound is extremely beneficial in improving accuracy by reducing the possibility of operator-induced errors. It also improves efficiency by pre-empting the need to scan repeatedly. Something that is typically required in 2D imaging.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Philips’ Epiq 7 cardiovascular ultrasound system tackles the problem of variability in image reproduction arising out of differences in operator experience and the type of technique used. The system is powered by the Anatomical Intelligence technology for 3D imaging and recreation of the optimal version of the diagnostic views. The system uses 3D datasets for automatic computation of measurements, as well. One of its biggest advantages is that it allows practitioners to evaluate the abnormality in a timely and easy manner, leading to quicker treatment decisions.

Philips has also added new features to its Epiq 7 system to enhance its use in the OB/GYN specialty. The new features help provide more information in the early stages of pregnancy so that any concerns can be addressed with appropriate treatment as early as possible. For example, the aBiometry AssistA.I. feature helps provide automated structural measurements by pre-placing cursors on selected fetal anatomy structures. This considerably simplifies the workflow and enhances clinical efficiencies. In addition, the 3D9-v3 transducer includes a tilt feature that makes it easier to laterally scan anatomical structures eliminating the need to maneuver the probe, ensuring the comfort of patients.

Modern ultrasound systems available today are quite different from their previous counterparts that were bulkier, challenging, and time-consuming to operate. The widespread applications of ultrasound today are further testimony to the advancements in the technology. It’s no wonder that it’s the preferred imaging modality of practitioners today and will continue to secure new frontiers in healthcare delivery.

If you haven’t yet leveraged the use of ultrasound technology to deliver improved patient care, it’s not too late now. Or if you haven’t updated your ultrasound system in a long time, it’s time to replace your outdated machine for a modern system that is better suited to the increasing demands of your practice. Contact National Ultrasound today to speak to one of our representatives who would love to evaluate your requirements and fit you with the perfect ultrasound machine for your needs!