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Better Ultrasound Images Of Tiny Hearts

March 22, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging, Diagnostic Imaging, Pediatric Radiology
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Norwegian advances in ultrasound show promise for detecting heart defects in newborns.

Researchers at the Medical Imaging Laboratory (MI Lab) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim announced better ways of measuring infant blood flow. Said Siri Ann Nyrnes, MD, a doctoral student at the lab and a consultant in the pediatric department at St. Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim:

Making the correct diagnosis is the greatest challenge facing pediatric cardiologists. The organs are so small, and current ultrasound imaging can only provide limited information.

Dr. Nyrnes was quoted in a news release from the Research Council of Norway, which helps fund MI Lab.

One advance, blood flow imaging (BFI), builds on color Doppler imaging. It provides two-dimensional blood flow information by superimposing blood speckle movement on color Doppler images. The resulting images display blood flow regardless of the ultrasound beam’s orientation and allow the rate to be measured.

A pilot study used BFI to examine 13 children with ventricular septal defect (a hole in the wall between the right and left ventricles). Researchers concluded that BFI provided a significantly more detailed image of blood flow than color Doppler.

“The images in this study were created by the physician and technician working together so the latter could see firsthand what we physicians are contending with and what we need in order to improve our diagnostics,” Dr. Nyrnes said. “The method is being refined with each patient.”

MI Lab took its new method a step further by using plane wave imaging, which generated higher-quality images more quickly. “Quantifying the blood flow is our next objective,” said engineer and research fellow Lasse Løvstakken. “Ultimately, we want to develop this method to provide blood flow information in 3-D.”

Oddly, MI Lab has gotten a boost in its endeavors from the world’s economic woes. “Our development has been rather slow,” said MI Lab Director Olav Haraldseth, MD, PhD. “When we began back in 2007, it was difficult to recruit the most skilled technology students. One positive ramification of the financial crisis is that it’s easier now to recruit the personnel we want.”

Related seminar: Cardiac Imaging

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