Medical Technologies International, Inc. (MTI), a Palm Desert, CA company, has developed a diagnostic system to detect carotid atherosclerotic vascular disease in very early stages, when intima and media thickness is just a bit off baseline. At the heart of the system is computer software developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The company has also worked with MIT, Cal Tech, and the Atherosclerosis Research Unit at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California to implement the technology and to check its clinical value. The great news is that this test can be performed on already existing ultrasound machines: no need to buy new equipment. The only thing that needs to be done is installation of the software itself.
From the NASA press release:
A standard carotid ultrasound measures plaque and blood flow within the artery. When an ultrasound is used with the software, the test measures the thickness of the inner two layers of the carotid artery – the intima and media. Medical Technologies International, Inc. (MTI) of Palm Desert, Calif., patented the ArterioVision software.
Arterial thickening provides the earliest evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, the beginning stage of a disease process that leads to heart disease and stroke. Doctors can use this carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) measurement to calculate the age of the patient’s arteries, which does not always match the patient’s calendar age.
“You may look and feel one way on the outside, but your arteries actually could be much older than one realizes,” said Dr. Howard N. Hodis of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “Once patients see how thick their arteries are, there is much more incentive for them to change their lifestyle with dietary modification and exercise,” he said. “Physicians also can use the test to monitor and change current medications.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the new diagnostic tool, called the ArterioVision CIMT procedure. Robert Selzer, MTI chief engineer, worked in JPL’s Image Processing Laboratory for 15 years, where the technology was developed that ultimately led to the software used in ArterioVision.
“This is such a precise method of examining the carotid artery. It can distinguish between 256 shades of gray at a subpixel level,” Selzer said. “You need that kind of detail to help catch heart disease as early as you can, often before there are any outward symptoms.”
During the test, a patient lies on an examination table while a technician applies gel to the neck to image the carotid arteries, located on both sides of the neck near the skin’s surface. The technician uses an ultrasound machine while following a patented protocol to capture specific images of the carotid artery wall. Using the ArterioVision software, the physician generates a CIMT measurement and a report that identifies the patient’s risk profile when compared to people of the same gender and age.
NASA press release: NASA Technology Helps Detect and Treat Heart Disease and Strokes …
MIT Tech Review: Space Tech Peers Inward …
Medical Technologies International technology page…