Philips is reporting that its iE33 echocardiography system is being used by NASA to investigate the cause of myocardial wasting in astronauts:
Astronauts commonly are thought to lose heart mass during prolonged flight. Two-dimensional echocardiography measurements reveal a 5 percent decrease, which usually returns within three days of being back on Earth. Researchers are interested in learning the cause of these changes. Possible explanations include heart atrophy caused by weightlessness, dehydration from space travel or error caused by the geometric assumptions used in two-dimensional echo.
The new technology being used captures a full-volume image of the beating heart in less than a minute and allows physicians to examine the heart as if they were holding it in their hands. It also allows the researchers to make accurate measurements of heart mass, ejection fraction, blood flow, strain rate and cardiac wall motion pre- and post-flight.
“We have a very short window of time in which to do an echo exam on the astronauts,” said David S. Martin of Wyle Laboratories, Inc., ultrasound lead for the NASA Cardiovascular Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. “Live 3D Echo allows us to quickly grab all the image data we need to do a full examination of the heart anatomy and function and send the astronauts on their way. Following the image acquisition, we use off-line analysis software to do several measurements that help us evaluate changes after space travel.”