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$50 Ultrasound Scanner Plugs Into USB Port

September 19, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Abdominal Imaging, Obstetric Ultrasound
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A new handheld ultrasound scanner costs as little as $50 and plugs into a computer”s USB port, from which it also draws its power.

Its performance doesn’t approach that of a standard ultrasound machine. But it’s not meant to. Engineers at Newcastle University in England created the device for use with pregnant patients in developing countries and other areas where no access to full-size machines exists.

Jeff Neasham, a senior lecturer at Newcastle who co-created the device, explained:

Imaging to obtain even the simplest information such as the child’s position in the womb or how it is developing is simply not available to women in many parts of the world. We hope the very low cost of this device and the fact that it can run on any standard computer made in the last 10 years means basic antenatal imaging could finally be made available to all women.

Neasham is a sonar expert in the university’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He created the device along with research associate Dave Graham. Neasham was quoted in a university news release.

The university estimates that the device can be manufactured for 30 to 40 British pounds—$50 to $65. (And the university’s Web site offers to collaborate with or license the technology to any interested manufacturers.)

The university cited United Nation statistics that more than 250,000 women die annually from complications attributed to pregnancy or childbirth. Almost all are in developing countries, and most deaths could have been prevented with better medical care.

Neasham said the device could have other uses as well:

There is obviously the potential to use it to go beyond obstetrics by using it to diagnose conditions such as gallstones or other conditions that readily show up with ultrasound imaging. Even vets [veterinarians] and farmers are interested in affordable imaging.

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GE Healthcare plans to invest $32.9 million in a new imaging research facility at the University of Wisconsin. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related seminar: Advances in Fetal and Neonatal Imaging

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